Washington/Taipei: The State Department approved $1.8 billion in new arms for Taiwan and submitted the package to Congress Wednesday for a final review in a move aimed at improving the island’s self-defense capabilities against a long-threatened invasion by China.
The package includes 135 SLAM-extended-range land attack missiles from Boeing Co. valued at $1 billion if the entire sale goes through, $436 million for Himars mobile artillery rocket systems made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and $367 million in surveillance and reconnaissance sensors from Raytheon Technologies Corp. to be mounted on aircraft.
The submission to Congress for a 30-day review, which is unlikely to draw opposition, comes two months after the U.S. and Taiwan completed the sale of 66 new model F-16 Block 70 aircraft from Lockheed.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang criticized the sale as “severe interference in China’s internal affairs” that would “undermine China’s sovereignty and security interests.” He vowed retaliation including sanctions against the U.S. companies involved.
Taiwan’s presidential office on Thursday thanked the U.S for the sale.
“By providing us with these defensive weapons, the U.S. is not only helping Taiwan strengthen and modernize our national defense capabilities, it is also increasing our asymmetric capabilities, making Taiwan more capable and confident of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the region,” spokesman Chang Tun-han said in a statement on the Presidential Office website.
Taiwan’s Defense Minister Yen De-fa told lawmakers there would be more U.S. arms sales to come, according to the Taipei-based United Daily News newspaper.
Tensions between Taiwan and China are rising following Beijing’s increasingly tough approach toward Hong Kong. China’s Communist Party — which claims democratically-run Taiwan as part of its territory — has steadily increased its diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan. In recent weeks, the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, has stepped up incursions into the air-defense-identification zone around the island.
The land-attack missiles in particular “will improve the recipient’s capability to meet current and future threats as it provides all-weather, day and night, precision attack capabilities against both moving and stationary targets,” according to the State Department.
The U.S. has sought to push back on the Chinese pressure. Two senior U.S. officials, including Undersecretary of State Keith Krach, have visited Taiwan since August in a show of support.
“The U.S. government has long shrunk from selling Taiwan weapons that could strike PRC territory from Taiwan proper,” said Ian Easton, senior director at the Arlington-based Project 2049 Institute. “These new missiles will hold major PLA amphibious assault bases at risk and significantly complicate their offensive plans.”
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in an Oct. 9 interview on the Hugh Hewitt show that the “administration has been relentless in the work that we have done to make sure that the understandings that we’ve had between ourselves and China as they relate to Taiwan are delivered upon.”
“We are going to make sure that we live up to all of the obligations we have to Taiwan,” Pompeo added. –Bloomberg