TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The news publication TIME reports that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is holding up a final decision on the recently confirmed US$2.6 billion arms deal with Taiwan until President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping meet to discuss trade negotiations in Osaka, Japan this coming weekend (June 28-29).
An unidentified Department of Defense official is the source of the new information concerning Mnuchin and the arms deal.
It was previously reported by the Wall Street Journal that one faction of the Trump administration opposed approving the deal out of concern that Xi Jinping would use it as a pretext to rebuff Trump’s attempt to negotiate on trade.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has emphasized its opposition to the arms deal, insisting that the U.S. acknowledge the "high sensitivity and severe harm,” of the deal, reports TIME.
The future of the arms deal, which includes 108 M1A2 Abrams tanks as well as hundreds of surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, is likely to hinge upon the outcome of the trade talks.
If Xi is able to conclude a successful deal with Trump, one of the provisions may be the suspension of the weapons sale. Likewise, Trump may opt to use the weapons as a bargaining chip of his own. U.S. Special Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is quoted by TIME as stating that “it’s certainly in the interest of both China and the United States to have some kind of successful agreement.”
A decision from the Trump administration on whether to give the sale a green light is likely to come in early July after the conclusion G20 Summit in Osaka.
Recently, U.S. Senator Cory Gardner called on the U.S. to make routine arms sales to Taiwan, proposing a single bulk weapons deal every two years. He argues that normalizing such sales would keep them from becoming politicized in the same manner that the current arms deal is being stalled on account of the U.S.-China Trade War.