US tries Beijing with US$2.6 billion sale of tanks, missiles to Taiwan

US sure to agitate China as it preps sale of US$2.6 billion worth of tanks, missiles to Taiwan

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M1A2 Abrams tank. (Photo from army.mil)

M1A2 Abrams tank. (Photo from army.mil)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The U.S. is preparing to sell US$2.6 billion worth of tanks and missiles to Taiwan, as the U.S.-China trade war rages on and days after China's Defense Minister said China would “fight at all costs” to annex Taiwan.

Four sources with information about the arms deal negotiations have told Reuters that an information notification of the sale has been sent to Congress. The biggest ticket item in the sale is 108 General Dynamics Corp M1A2 Abrams tanks worth about US$2 billion, meant to replace Taiwan's arsenal of ancient 60s era M60 Patton tanks.

The sources also mentioned that the sale would include US$651 million in anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, which Taiwan is in sore need of as its massive communist neighbor with the world's largest standing army continues to threaten to invade the small island nation. Like its tanks, many of Taiwan's existing missiles are aging hand-me-downs or reverse-engineered, domestically-made versions of U.S. missiles.

According to sources who spoke to Reuters, the deal would include the following weapons systems and approximate sales values:

  • 108 M1A2 Abrams tanks - US$2 billion
  • 1,240 TOW anti-tank missiles - US$299 million
  • 409 Javelin missiles - US$129 million
  • 250 stinger missiles - US$223 million

There had been speculation that the Trump administration had put the arms deal on hold when it was still optimistic that a trade deal could be had with Beijing. Since the trade talks have collapsed, it appears that Trump is less concerned about agitating his communist counterpart and China hawks such as trade adviser Peter Navarro may have sway.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times published in March, Navarro praised Trump for revitalizing the Lima Ohio plant where the Abrams tanks are made with increased defense spending and securing new orders for the tanks around the world, including the potential sale of 108 to Taiwan.

At the annual Shangri-La Dialogue on Sunday, Chinese Defense Minister, Wei Fenghe (魏鳳和) said China would “fight at all costs” to annex Taiwan and indicated that any attempt, by the U.S. or “separatist” forces like Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party, to separate Taiwan from China would be met with the full force of the Chinese military.

Taiwan is separated from China by almost 180 kilometers of ocean. Despite Taiwan never having been a part of the People’s Republic of China, General Wei and other communist leaders consistently claim Taiwan as "sacred territory."