Trump administration advances $1.8B arms sales to Taiwan

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The Trump administration has approved selling Taiwan $1.8 billion in weapons, including air-to-ground missiles, according to notices to Congress on Wednesday.

The formal notification of approval for the three arms sales comes a little more than a week after the administration first informally notified Congress.

The package includes 135 Boeing-made air-to-ground cruise missiles called Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response missiles and related equipment, with an estimated value of $1.008 billion, according to a notice from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The sale will help Taiwan “to meet current and future threats as it provides all-weather, day and night, precision attack capabilities against both moving and stationary targets,” the notice said.

The administration also approved selling Taiwan 11 Lockheed Martin-made truck-mounted rocket launchers called High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and related equipment, as well as six MS-110 reconnaissance pods that can be attached to Taiwan’s fighter jets.

The rocket launcher package is estimated to cost $436.1 million, while the sensor pod package is valued at $367.2 million, according to the notices.

Taiwan will use the rocket launchers “as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen homeland defense,” and the sensors will boost Taiwan’s “capability to meet current and future threats by providing timely Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), capabilities for its security and defense,” the notices said.

“This proposed sale serves U.S. national, economic, and security interests by supporting the recipient’s continuing efforts to modernize its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability,” all three notices said. “The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, economic and progress in the region.”

The notices also said the arms sales “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

The Trump administration is advancing with the weapons sales with just two weeks to go before the U.S. presidential election, in which both President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden have sought to portray themselves as tough on China.

U.S.-China relations are also near their lowest point as Trump and his Republican allies seek to deflect blame for the coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the United States onto China, where the first cases of the virus were detected in late 2019.

Approval of the sales will undoubtedly anger Beijing, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory and objects whenever the United States announces a new arms sale there.

Beijing has also been stepping up military activity around the island recently amid several high-ranking visits to Taiwan from Trump administration officials, including from Under Secretary of State Keith Krach and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

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