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US State Department greenlights US$2.2 billion sale of tanks, missiles to Taiwan

US State Department ignores China's criticism, approves US$2.2 billion sale of Abrams tanks, Stinger missiles to Taiwan

(United States Department of Defense photo)

(United States Department of Defense photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The U.S. State Department has approved a plan to sell US$2.2 billion dollars worth of Abrams tanks, Stinger missiles, and other weapons and equipment, despite protests from Beijing, announced the Pentagon on Monday (July 8).

In two press releases issued on Monday, Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced that the U.S. State Department has approved the possible sale of 108 M1A2T Abrams Tanks and 250 I -92F MANPAD Stinger missiles to Taiwan. Other major weapons in the potential arms sale include 122 M2 Chrysler Mount Machine Guns, 216 M240 Machine Guns, 14 M88A2 HERCULES Vehicles, 16 M1070A1 Heavy Equipment Transporters (HET), and four I -92F MANPAD Stinger Fly-to-Buy missiles.

Four sources with information about the arms deal negotiations told Reuters last month 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.

There had been speculation that the Trump administration had put the arms deal on hold to avoid agitating Being during trade talks. Although trade talks have resumed, 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 June 2, 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 split 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."

A report by Foreign Policy (FP) points out that U.S.-China relations are in a delicate phase, and if a separate arms sale of 66 F-16V fighter jets does progress, Beijing is bound to protest. When Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, in late June, he resumed U.S.-China trade talks and relaxed restrictions on sales by U.S. companies to Huawei.

However, the report asserted that the easing of tensions between the U.S. and China may only be temporary. The U.S. is still worried about China's economic structure, the theft of American technology, and continuing military base construction in the South China Sea.

According to the report, the Trump administration has recently become concerned that China may invade Taiwan sooner than expected. In January, Xi warned that we would not rule out the use of force against "separatists" and Taiwan independence activities.