WASHINGTON: The US State Department has approved a possible sale of an estimated US$108 million worth of military-technical assistance to Taiwan, the Pentagon said on Friday (July 15).
China has never denied using force to bring Taiwan under its control, and the democratically governed island has complained of increasing military pressure from Beijing to force it to accept its sovereignty.
The United States has only informal relations with Taipei. But US law requires Washington to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, and President Joe Biden’s administration has vowed to increase engagement with the island.
The Pentagon said Taiwan requested the latest assistance, including spare and repair parts for the tank and combat vehicles and US government and contractor technical and logistics support.
“The proposed sale will contribute to maintaining the recipient’s vehicles, small arms, combat weapon systems and logistical support items enhancing their ability to respond to current and future threats,” the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.
It would also enhance Taiwan’s military interoperability with the United States and other allies, and it said the island’s armed forces would have no difficulty absorbing equipment and support.
The State Department notification does not indicate that a contract has been signed or negotiations have ended.
However, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the deal was expected to “become effective” within a month.
“In the face of the expanding military threat of the Chinese Communists, properly maintaining equipment is as important as newly purchased weapons and equipment,” it added in a statement.
Successive US administrations have urged Taiwan to modernise its military to become a “porcupine” that is hard for China to attack, advocating the sale of inexpensive, mobile, and survivable – or “asymmetric” – weapons that could outlast any initial assault by China’s more extensive military.
Some US business groups, however, have criticised the Biden administration’s Taiwan arms sales policy, arguing it is too restrictive and fails to address challenges posed by China’s military.
US-Taiwan Business Council President Rupert Hammond-Chambers welcomed the announcement in a statement. Still, they said it was a sign the administration was focused on sustainment and munitions support for Taiwan and that force modernisation of its military “is no longer a priority”.