The U.S. Department of State (DOS) approved the possible sale to democratically ruled Taiwan of over $2 billion worth of arms and related equipment, the Pentagon announced this week, despite Communist China’s objections to the most significant weapons deal with Taipei so far since Donald Trump became president.
Communist China considers the island nation of Taiwan a stubborn province that must return to the control of its “mainland” by any means necessary.
On Tuesday, Beijing demanded that the Trump administration halt the arms sale, which includes 108 General Dynamics Corp M1A2T Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger missiles, and related equipment.
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, told reporters that Taiwan is inseparable from China, warning that “no one should underestimate” Beijing’s determination to maintain its sovereignty.
He argued that the arms sale “flagrantly interferes in China’s domestic affairs and harms China’s sovereignty and security interests,” adding:
China deplores and resolutely opposes [the sale]. … We urge the US to stay committed to the one-China principle and … cancel this arms sale immediately and stop military ties with Taiwan to prevent further damage to China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the agreement is a testament to America’s support, particularly with China repeatedly hosting military drills to intimidate the island and fuel instability in the region, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.
“The second sale of arms to Taiwan [this year] is [a] strong proof of the robust support of the US government for Taiwan and its defense needs,” the ministry reportedly noted in a statement on Tuesday.
“Situated in the frontline of China’s expanding military ambition, and facing its persistent pressure and threat, our purchase of M1A2T tanks, missiles, and other equipment is highly significant and helpful in upgrading our defense capability,” the Taipei foreign ministry added.
Taiwan’s Presidential Office also welcome the arms sale, expressing “sincere gratitude” to the Trump administration.
“Taiwan will speed up investment on defense and continue to deepen security ties with the United States and countries with similar ideas,” Chang Tun-Han, a spokesman for Taiwan’s president, said in a statement, according to Reuters.
SCMP points out that the latest agreement marks the fourth arms sale to Taiwan since Trump took office in January 2017.
In a press release issued Monday, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), a component of the Pentagon charged with handling foreign arms transfers, said:
This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security and defensive capability of the recipient, an important force for political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region.
The recipient intends to use these defense articles and services to modernize its armed forces and expand its existing air defense architecture to counter threats. This will contribute to the recipient military’s goal to update its capability while further enhancing greater interoperability between the recipient, the U.S., and other partners. The recipient will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.
The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
DSCA said it notified Congress of the potential sale. Taiwan reportedly confirmed that it had requested the weapons.
Although the U.S. has no formal ties with Taiwan, it is bound by law to help provide the country with the means to defend itself, Reuters reports.
“The United States is the main arms supplier to Taiwan, which China deems a wayward province,” it adds. “Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.”
On Tuesday, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman claimed that the sale “gravely violates international law and basic norms in international relations.”
The sale comes amid strained U.S.-China relations, primarily fueled by a trade dispute and Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The [recently approved] sale is by far the most substantial since Trump became president in January 2017. Previous deals, announced in June 2017, September 2018 and April 2019, included training and maintenance/logistics support, along with torpedoes, anti-radiation missiles, and missile components. Those deals were worth US$500 million, US$330 million and US$1.42 billion respectively.
China has repeatedly warned foreign countries, particularly the United States, against forging ties and selling weapons to Taiwan.