The US is making a deal of sale of $2 billion worth of tanks and weapons with Taiwan, said four sources related to the negotiations. This move is more likely to anger China as the trade war between the two largest economies has escalated.
The US Congress had been informed about the proposed sale with an informal notification, said the four sources on a condition that their identity would be anonymous as they were not allowed to speak of the deal as of now.
The potential sale included 108 General Dynamics M1A2 Abrams tanks worth around $2 billion as well as anti-tank and anti-aircraft munitions, three of the sources said. Taiwan has been interested in refreshing its existing U.S.-made battle tank inventory, which includes M60 Patton tanks.
The US is the main supplier of weapons of Taiwan, which China deems on its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring the self-ruled island under its control.
In March, the Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen said that the US was responding in an affirmative way to Taipei’s request for sales of new arms in order to fortify its strength due to pressure from China. The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bounded by law to help provide means to defend itself.
China and America are engaged in a fierce trade battle, with conflicts over Taiwan and the South China Sea aggravating tensions.
A representative of the State Department said that the US government does not comment on or confirm potential or pending arms sales or transfers before they have been formally notified to Congress.
The congressional notifications included a variety of anti-tank munitions, including 409 Raytheon and Lockheed Martin Corp-made Javelin missiles worth as much as $129 million, two of the sources said.
The notifications also included 1,240 TOW anti-tank missiles worth as much as $299 million, one of the sources said. There were also 250 stinger missiles worth as much as $223 million in the notification, the source said.
Stingers are more likely used in portable anti-aircraft weapon systems.
Although, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry did confirm that they had requested for those weapons and that the proceedings are going normally.
The US commitment to providing Taiwan with the weapons to defend itself helps Taiwan’s military to raise its combat abilities, consolidates the Taiwan-U.S. security partnership and ensures Taiwan’s security, the ministry said in a statement.
There was no reflexive response from Beijing.
The US president Donald Trump’s a long-awaited overhaul of U.S. arms export policy in 2018 aimed at expanding sales to allies, saying it would boost the American defense industry and create jobs at home.
Trump’s trade advisor Peter Navarro was one of the administration’s architects of that policy. Navarro, a China hawk, wrote about the possible sale of tanks to Taiwan in a March opinion column in the New York Times ahead of a presidential trip to the Lima, Ohio, plant where they are made.
At a point where the US Army hit the rock bottom, only one tank per month from the plant, General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic said during an April conference call with investors, but said “we’ll be rolling out 30 tanks a month by the end of this year,” partly because of international orders.
Last week, Pentagon announced that it would sell 34 ScanEagle drones made by Boeing, to the governments of Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam for $47 million.
The drones would have higher intelligence-gathering capacity, apparently curbing Chinese activity in that region. China claims almost all of the strategic South China Sea and frequently lambastes the United States and its allies over naval operations near Chinese-occupied islands. Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam all have competing claims.
China’s defense ministry warned the United States not to meddle with the security disputes between Taiwan and the South China Sea.
Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the meeting that the United States would no longer “tiptoe” around China’s behavior in Asia.