China has asked the U.S. not to go ahead with its plans for selling US$330 million worth of defense equipment to Taiwan, a country that Beijing claims to be a part of its own. However, the U.S. has looked past China’s warning and declared that it would help the island nation boost up its military capabilities.
The arms deal
America’s deal with Taiwan covers spare parts for its fighter jets F-16, F-5, and C-130 transport. The Taiwanese government will also be procuring 18 advanced targeting pods for the F-16 jets that are capable of detecting and tracking targets at long ranges.
“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security and defensive capability of the recipient, which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region,” said the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (Reuters).
The Presidential Office of Taiwan welcomed America’s decision and remarked that the weapons sale will help the tiny country combat the growing security threat from China. As expected, Beijing soon conveyed its displeasure at the proposed sale and asked the U.S. to abandon the deal.
“We urge the U.S. side… to immediately cancel this deal and cut off military ties with Taiwan to avoid doing serious damage to China-U.S. relations, peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and cooperation between U.S. and China in important areas,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang (South China Morning Post).
Despite China’s request for canceling the arms sale, the U.S. has announced that it will move ahead with the deal. No Congressional disapproval was triggered during the 30-day review process of the sale. This is the second time that America has sold arms to Taiwan under President Trump. On the first occasion, the U.S. administration had approved US$1.4 billion worth of defense equipment in June 2017.
The approval comes ahead of the upcoming U.S.-Taiwan defense industry conference, which is an annual event “in a series of ongoing conferences addressing the future of U.S. defense cooperation with Taiwan, the defense procurement process, and Taiwan’s defense and national security needs”, said the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council (South China Morning Post).
Though the U.S. maintains no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it is the island’s sole arms dealer. In fact, America had denied several of Taiwan’s weapons request during the past 10 years. But with the current administration, Taiwan’s arms requests are reviewed pretty quickly.
China also vaguely threatened Taiwan and the U.S. as it became clear that the arms deal will certainly take place. “China is the only big nation in the world that is not unified… And the Chinese military has a heavy responsibility to not let a single inch of its territory be lost… If there is anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will take action,” said Wei Fenghe, the Chinese defense minister (Yahoo).
And even though China has warned of negative consequences in the bilateral relationship, many experts feel that Beijing will not do anything rash as its trade war with the U.S. has already started to weaken its economy. Acting in a way that hurts American interests can end up backfiring on the Chinese as the U.S. might impose even bigger tariffs and other sanctions, stressing out the Chinese economy to a breaking point.