US agrees to sell $1.1bn in arms to Taiwan, angering China

·3-min read

The US is selling high-tech military equipment worth $1.1bn (£960m), including anti-ship and air-to-air missiles, to Taiwan amid the ongoing strife with China in a move that has invited a stern response from Beijing.

The sale approved by the US state department was announced by the Pentagon on Friday and comes amid unprecedented tensions between China and Taiwan with Beijing carrying out aggressive military drills around the archipelago following Nancy Pelosi’s visit last month.

The sale includes Sidewinder missiles, which can be used for air-to-air and surface-attack missions, at a cost of some $85.6m (£73m), Harpoon anti-ship missiles at an estimated $355m (£308m) cost and support for Taiwan’s surveillance radar program for an estimated $665.4m (£577m), the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said.

Reacting to the arms deal, Liu Pengyu, the spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington, said in a statement that the arms sale “severely jeopardises China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

“China will resolutely take legitimate and necessary counter-measures in light of the development of the situation,” he said.

The White House says the arms deal has been under consideration for quite some time and was developed in consultation with Taiwan and US lawmakers.

“As the PRC continues to increase pressure on Taiwan – including through heightened military air and maritime presence around Taiwan – and engages in attempts to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, we’re providing Taiwan with what it needs to maintain its self-defence capabilities,” Laura Rosenberger, White House senior director for China and Taiwan, said in a statement.

The Pentagon says the equipment and support announced on Friday would not alter the basic military balance in the region. The US officials also stress they did not reflect any change in policy toward Taiwan.

“These proposed sales are routine cases to support Taiwan’s continuing efforts to modernise its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability,” a US department of state spokesperson said, requesting anonymity.

Taiwan’s defence ministry expressed its thanks, adding that China’s recent “provocative” activities represented a serious threat and the arms sale would help it face China’s military pressure.

“At the same time, it also demonstrates that it will help our country strengthen its overall defence capabilities and jointly maintain the security and peace of the Taiwan Strait and the Indo-Pacific region,” the ministry said in a statement.

The sales must be reviewed by Congress, but both Democratic and Republican congressional aides said they do not expect opposition.

At least two members of Congress have visited Taiwan from both parties since Mr Pelosi’s visit, as well as governors of US states, despite Beijing’s show of aggression. China has issued statements condemning all of these visits.

While the sale of equipment comes as yet another show of support for Taiwan from the US, Washington has also maintained it follows a one-China policy, which means the US recognises only one government in China and has formal ties with it rather than the island of Taiwan that China views as its inalienable part.

While Beijing considers Taiwan as a breakaway province to be merged with the mainland eventually “by force, if necessary”, Taipei says that as the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island, it has no right to claim it.

This is why the visit by Ms Pelosi, one of the highest ranked officials in the US, set off Beijing in a frenzy. Since then, China has adopted various measures to show its anger, however, experts believe it has limited options to exercise.

Additional reporting by agencies