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US arms sales allegedly surge for Taiwan but it just "media speculation"

11:08 | 17/09/2020

Industry sources reveals that Taiwan sets to receive as many as seven major weapon systems from the US, in the context of the Trump administration is putting more pressure on Beijing.

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Selling seven major weapons systems

The United States plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems, including mines, cruise missiles and drones to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said, as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China, Reuters reported.

Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from years of precedent in which U.S. military sales to the island were spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing.

But the Trump administration has become more aggressive with China in 2020 and the sales would land as relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, a lingering trade war and disputes about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

us arms sales allegedly surge for taiwan but it just media speculation
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry launches a Tomahawk cruise missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman)

According to CNBC, the weapons packages from Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Atomics are moving their way through the export process, three people familiar with the status of the deals on Capitol Hill said, and a notification to Congress is expected within weeks.

One industry source said President Donald Trump was slated to be briefed on the packages this week by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Some of the deals had been requested by Taiwan more than a year ago, but are only now being moved through the approval process. A State Department spokesman declined to comment.

us arms sales allegedly surge for taiwan but it just media speculation
U.S. military forces fire a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) rocket during the annual Philippines-US live fire amphibious landing exercise (PHIBLEX) at Crow Valley in Capas, Tarlac province, north of Manila, Philippines October 10, 2016. REUTERS

Taiwan's interest in US weapon amid an increase of threatening moves by China

According to CNA, Taiwan's interest in US weapons and equipment is not new. The island is bolstering its defences in the face of what it sees as increasingly threatening moves by Beijing, such as regular Chinese air force and naval exercises near Taiwan.

The senior US official said Taiwan's increased defence spending was a good step, but it had to do more.

"Taiwan, frankly, needs to do more in order to ensure that they indigenously have an ability to deter Chinese aggression," the official said.

us arms sales allegedly surge for taiwan but it just media speculation
Four US-made F-16 fighter jets cross the sky during a drill near the Suao navy harbour in Yilan, eastern Taiwan, on April 13, 2018. Sam Yeh | AFP | Getty Images

At the same time Taiwan's desire to buy weapons increased after President Tsai Ing-wen was re-elected in January and has made strengthening Taiwan's defences a top priority, Financial Post reported.

Taiwan is China's most sensitive territorial issue. Beijing says it is a Chinese province, and has denounced the Trump administration's support for the island.

Washington has been eager to create a military counterbalance to Chinese forces, building on an effort known within the Pentagon as "Fortress Taiwan", as Beijing's military makes increasingly aggressive moves in the region.

A senior U.S. official, citing Chinese assertiveness in the Taiwan Strait, said: "There is no equilibrium today. It is out of balance. And I think that is dangerous."

Nothing but "media speculation"

According to Focus Taiwan, The Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Wednesday that a foreign news report about the United States planning to sell seven major weapons systems to Taiwan was nothing more than "media speculation."

In a statement, the ministry said the Taiwan military handles arms purchase deals that are under evaluation or being negotiated, based on the principles of confidentially and discretion.

us arms sales allegedly surge for taiwan but it just media speculation
Tsai Ing-wen said that Taiwan won't accept a "one country, two systems" arrangement with China (Reuters)

The military does not discuss such deals publicly, the MND said, in response to the Reuters report about a plan for the U.S. to supply Taiwan with seven major types of weapons systems, including mines, cruise missiles and drones.

The ministry said it will report to the public whenever the U.S. State Department formally notifies Congress of any such deals. Meanwhile, the news report about an imminent American arms sale to Taiwan is purely "media speculation," the MND said.

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