For those wondering how to make sure that any trade “ceasefire” between the US and China falls apart faster than a trip on board the Lolita Express, here is a suggestion: today the US State Department approved the possible sale to Taiwan of M1A2T Abrams tanks, Stinger missiles and related equipment at an estimated value of $US2.2 billion despite vocal Chinese criticism of the deal, AAP reported.
As a reminder, one month ago China’s Foreign Ministry last month said it was seriously concerned about US arms sales to self-ruled Taiwan, and urged the United States to halt the sales to avoid harming bilateral ties.
The proposed sale also comes at a perilously sensitive moment: at the start of June, during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe warned the United States not to meddle in security disputes over Taiwan and the South China Sea. He also launched into a bellicose attack on opponents to China’s expansionist plans towards the South China Sea and Taiwan, declaring: “If they want to fight, we will fight till the end”.
In response, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the meeting that the United States would no longer “tiptoe” around Chinese behavior in Asia. Confirming that, a sale of more than $2 billion in weapons to Taiwan would be seen as a provocation to China’s national interest in the region, and a clear signal that the gloves are now off when it comes to geopolitical claims, potentially resulting in a worrisome escalation of a war which has so far been confined to the sphere of trade.
The sale of the weapons requested by Taiwan, including 108 General Dynamics Corp M1A2T Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles, would not alter the basic military balance in the region, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said.
DSCA has notified Congress of the possible arms sale, which it said could also include mounted machine guns, ammunition, Hercules-armoured vehicles for recovering inoperative tanks, heavy equipment transporters and related support.
The United States is the main arms supplier to Taiwan, which China deems a renegade province. Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said in March that Washington was responding positively to Taipei’s requests for new arms sales to bolster its defences in the face of pressure from China.
While the US has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide it with the means to defend itself.