US wants to sell long-range missiles to Taiwan

US arms deal with Taiwan to include AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER capable of hitting targets in China

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AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER. (Internet image)

AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER. (Internet image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Part of a proposed US$7 billion arms deal the U.S. is planning for Taiwan reportedly includes long-range missiles capable of striking targets in China.

As tensions heat up between the U.S. and China over the trade war, Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, national security law in Hong Kong, and human rights abuses in Xinjiang, U.S. President Donald Trump is looking to take a tougher stance with Beijing. At US$7 billion, the proposed arms sale would be Taiwan's second-largest weapons procurement.

Given the high level of enmity felt on both sides of the aisle in Congress toward China, the deal will likely receive approval.

In the massive, multi-weapon system arms package, the Trump administration includes the long-range, air-ground-missile, AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER (Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response), made by Boeing, according to officials who spoke to the New York Times. The weapon is a precision-guided, air-launched cruise missile that can strike targets in China or its coastal waters, with a maximum range of 270 kilometers.

The missiles can be mounted on Taiwan's fleet of F-16 fighter jets, enabling them to fire outside of China's air defenses. This allows the jets to strike Chinese bases and staging areas on land and People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships if they try to cross the Taiwan Strait.

News of the weapons sale comes as Beijing escalates its provocative military actions around Taiwan. Last week, multiple Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) for two days in a row, while this week China fired a Long March rocket carrying satellites directly over the skies over Taiwan, sent a warship past Taiwan's east coast, and flew anti-submarine aircraft into Taiwan's southwest ADIZ.

Meanwhile, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach and his delegation arrived in Taiwan on Thursday for a three-day trip to attend a memorial service for former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). He will also meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Sept. 18.

Prior to the trip, China warned of "serious damage" to Sino-American relations if it was not canceled. After the U.S. ignored the communist country's warnings and went ahead with the trip, China lodged a complaint with Washington and said it would make a “necessary response.”