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US approves possible $2 billion arms sale to Taiwan

In this photo released by Military News Agency, Taiwan war planes are parked on a highway during an exercise to simulate a response to a Chinese attack on its airfields in Changhua in southern Taiwan.

MILITARY NEWS AGENCY

By JOHN HARNEY | Bloomberg | Published: July 9, 2019

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — The U.S. State Department has approved the possible sale of tanks, Stinger missiles and other armaments to Taiwan, a decision certain to irritate China, which regards Taiwan as part of its territory.

“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,” the Pentagon’s Defense Security and Cooperation Agency, which announced the State Department’s assent to a potential arms deal, said in a statement on Monday.

The potential sale, which was first reported by Bloomberg News in June, “will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance and economic progress in the region,” the agency added in the statement.

Aside from the Stingers, the weapons and equipment requested by Taiwan include 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks, as well as hundreds of machine guns, smoke grenade launchers and ammunition. The potential sale is estimated to cost about $2 billion, according to the statement.

When the possible deal was announced early last month, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that the Beijing government was “severely concerned about the U.S.’s move.”

“We are firmly against U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. We urge the U.S. to see the high sensitivity and severe harm of arms sales to Taiwan,” Geng added.

The move came amid rising tensions between China and the U.S. over trade and other issues. China sees Taiwan as an integral part of its territory that it must unify, by force if necessary.

Shortly after his election, Donald Trump risked a crisis in relations by taking a call from Tsai Ing-wen, the pro-independence president of Taiwan. Shortly afterward, however, the new American president reaffirmed the “One China” policy that guides U.S. interactions on Taiwan in a telephone call with China’s president, Xi Jinping.

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