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Biden set to approve first arms sale to Taiwan amid China threat

Valerie Mai Valerie Mai

mnghonganh@gmail.com

April 21, 2021 | 13:37

The Biden administration’s first arms sales to the island of Taiwan, featuring some howitzers, are proceeding, Taiwan media reported.

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Biden set to approve first arms sale to Taiwan amid China threat
Photo: Newsweek

President Joe Biden is set to approve his administration's first weapons sale to Taiwan, providing the Chinese-claimed island with self-propelled artillery in a deal expected to be fulfilled within three years, according to reports this week.

The American Institute in Taiwan, the U.S.' de facto embassy in Taipei, told the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen in March that the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) would soon notify Congress of the deal, United Daily News reported on Sunday.

The agreement is expected to include 40 M109A6 "Paladin" self-propelled howitzers and related equipment, with delivery expected in phases between 2023 and 2025, the newspaper said, citing a senior government source. If confirmed, it would be the Biden administration's first arms sale to Taiwan, after former President Donald Trump sanctioned 11 weapons deals to the island in his four years in office, including six amid a marked escalation in military tensions in the Taiwan Strait last year.

Biden set to approve first arms sale to Taiwan amid China threat
Photo: Global Times

"Fuel added" to China-US and Cross-Strait relations

Observers noted the process of the deal comes earlier than previous US administrations. Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for US Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Monday the early sales are in line with the Biden administration’s strategy of visibly playing the “Taiwan card.” The deal will meet few barriers at the administrative level. Xin noted the Biden administration, through the arms sales, wanted to show promises to the island, deter the Chinese mainland amid the intense situation and pacify the US’ China hawks but the action “added fuel to flames” when both Cross-Straits and China-US relations are highly strained, according to Manila Times.

Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Monday that by selling arms to the island of Taiwan, the US is not only instigating Taiwan secessionists to create more estrangement and trouble between the Chinese mainland and the island but also letting US arms dealers earn huge amounts of money.

Biden set to approve first arms sale to Taiwan amid China threat
Photo: Newsweek

Status quo stays unchanged, said experts

The experts pointed out no matter what kind of weapons the island buys, the gap in the military capability across the Straits cannot be changed. It did not specify the amount of the equipment or the value of the deal. The alleged deal may become the first arms sales to Taiwan by the Biden administration, three months after Joe Biden took office. There is no official confirmation about the sales from the US as of press time.

Taiwanese Defense Official Chiu Kuo-cheng on Monday confirmed that the island has been in talks about the purchase for some time, but Washington has not formally notified Taipei about whether the deal will proceed. Meanwhile, Australian media reported earlier that Canberra would join forces with Washington to deal with possible military conflicts in the Taiwan Strait. Chiu said Taiwan welcomed any help and efforts to maintain peace in the strait.

While Taiwan has continued its procurement and development of conventional weapons, the government has placed an emphasis on the country's asymmetric war-fighting capabilities, including smaller, more mobile fast attack missile boats. Taiwan defense official Lee Shih-Chiang, who is head of strategic planning, told lawmakers on Monday that the country was still in the process of acquiring AGM-158 JASSM long-range cruise missiles, Newsweek cited.

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Valerie Mai