After announcing in September that up to seven major weapons packages were being considered, US officials have revealed that three weapons systems have been approved for sale to Taiwan by the US State Department and notifications of the proposed transactions have been sent to the US Congress for consideration.
Reuters has reported that on Monday five sources, who declined to be identified, informed the news agency that the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee have been notified that three of the planned weapons sales had been approved by the State Department.
The notifications sent to the Congress concern the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) made by Lockheed Martin Corp, long-range air-to-ground missiles (called SLAM-ER) made by Boeing Co, and external sensor pods for F-16 fighter jets that allow for real-time transmission of imagery and data from the aircraft back to ground stations.
Notifications for the pending sale of other advanced weapons systems, including advanced aerial drones, land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and underwater mines, are expected to be forwarded to the Congress soon.
No official statements have been made concerning the reports.
The announcement follows calls last week by senior US officials urging Taiwan to spend more on its own defence and to carry out military reforms to make clear to China the risks of attempting to invade.
Such steps however also significantly increase the risk that China will indeed attempt an invasion, invoking an impression that the ‘window of opportunity’ for unification may be closing and that decisive action must be taken before Taiwan receives and learns how to operate powerful new weapons systems.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said US arms sales to Taiwan are severely damaging to China’s sovereignty and security interests, and urged Washington to recognize the harm the transaction would cause and immediately cancel them.
“China will make a legitimate and necessary response according to how the situation develops,” Zhao told reporters in Beijing. LINK
Meanwhile, the Taiwanese Air Force Command issued a press release on Tuesday (October 13) stating that a foreigner spotted in a photo taken during President Tsai Ing-wen’s recent visit to the Leshan radar station was an US technical advisor.
In response to speculation prompted by the photo, the Air Force stated that the advisor was dispatched by the US in accordance with a previous arms sale agreement to assist with radar system operations, ensure proper equipment maintenance, and advise on consolidating Taiwan’s air defence.
The Air Force statement also called on the public to refrain from further speculation.
The Leshan radar station is located in Hsinchu’s Wufeng Township and hosts a Cold War-era Precision Acquisition Vehicle Entry Phased Array Warning System (PAVE PAWS) early warning radar.
The radar was purchased from the US in 2000 and commissioned in 2013, and can detect and monitor aircraft at a distance of up to 5,000 kilometres. LINK
China has adopted a more aggressive military posture with respect to Taiwan since the prospective weapons deals were announced in September, with several senior US administration officials also visiting Taiwan since August – another inflammatory action which the US had avoided for many years.
There have been incursions by People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on an almost daily basis since September 16. China has also substantially stepped up both the frequency and scale of its military exercises in adjacent maritime zones, the latest to be held involving live-fire drills off the coast of Zhejiang Province in the East China Sea and off the coast of Liaoning Province in the Bohai Sea on Wednesday (October 14).
US-China relations have plunged to the lowest point in decades, and the prospects for improvement in the near future are very slim as both President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, have sought to appear ‘tough’ in their approach to Beijing.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- US plan to establish Asia-Pacific NATO-type formal alliance against China
- As Taiwan China tensions remain high new Japanese PM urges regional stability