In the approach to the US presidential election in November, President Donald Trump’s administration has sent the deal to Congress for approval, with clearance expected soon, according to reports by Reuters and Defense News.
The package would provide Taiwan with the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) and external sensor pods for F-16 jets.
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Lockheed Martin’s HIMARS is a lightweight truck-based platform that fires six 227mm rockets with GPS-guided high-strike precision. The platform could also fire the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System, which has a range of up to 300km (186 miles).
The SLAM-ER by Boeing is a long-range, air-to-surface cruise missile that can be carried by fighters to attack targets on land or sea, stationary or moving, from beyond visual range. It carries a 274kg (604lb) warhead, is guided by GPS and infrared imaging and has a range of 280km.
The sensor pod for Taiwan’s F-16A/B would enable the fighters to send images and data from the aircraft back to ground stations in real time and greatly improve the warplane’s situation analysis and ability to hit a target.
Four other weapons are also proposed to be sold to Taiwan, including large unmanned aerial vehicles – a type of MQ-9B combat drone – as well as land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles and sophisticated naval mines.
“These weapons are offensive, and could be used to attack the PLA’s assembly area on the mainland coast before departure, or their vessels during the crossing in the strait, in the event the PLA takes military action on Taiwan,” said Hong Kong military commentator Song Zhongping.
Song said these weapons could theoretically cause the PLA some trouble, but there were effective countermeasures to minimise the weapons’ impact, such as attacking the fighters that carried the missiles and sensor pods on the ground before they could take off.
And the limited amount of weaponry likely available to Taiwan could not change the military power balance across the strait, he said.
China is angered by the US-Taiwan weapons deal, saying it “seriously damages China’s sovereignty and security”. Beijing has threatened to retaliate.
Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province that it has vowed to reunite with the mainland, by force if necessary. Therefore, its fury at the US arms sales came not only from the closer military ties between Taipei and Washington, but also the offensive nature of these weapons, observers said.
When Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 it agreed to limit weapons supplies to Taiwan, but at the same time the Taiwan Relations Act requires the US government to provide the island with the means for defence.
The Trump administration has stepped up arms sales to Taiwan in recent years, which Beijing has constantly opposed.
More from South China Morning Post:
- China threatens retaliation over US deals to supply Taiwan with arms
- China says it has foiled Taiwan spy plots and accuses suspect of backing Hong Kong protests
- Chinese military stages island invasion drill during Taiwan’s ‘Double Tenth’ holiday
- Mainland China casts long shadow over Taiwan’s ‘double tenth’ celebrations
- Is Beijing trying to exhaust Taiwan’s air force?
This article US weapons in Taiwan deal could slow mainland China attack: analyst first appeared on South China Morning Post