Fri, Jun 07, 2019 - Page 1 News List

US readying US$2bn arms sale to Taiwan: sources

WISH LIST:The Ministry of National Defense confirmed that it submitted requests for M1A2 Abrams tanks, two types of anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft missiles

Reuters, WASHINGTON

A US Army M1A2 Abrams main battle tank fires its primary gun in the US-led Noble Partner joint military exercise near Vaziani, Georgia, on May 18, 2016.

Photo: Reuters

The US is pursuing the sale of more than US$2 billion of tanks and weapons to Taiwan, four people familiar with the negotiations said, in a move likely to anger China as a trade dispute between the world’s two biggest economies escalates.

An informal notification of the proposed sale has been sent to the US Congress, the four sources said on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to speak about the possible deal.

The potential sale would include 108 General Dynamics M1A2 Abrams tanks worth about US$2 billion, as well as anti-tank and anti-aircraft munitions, three of the sources said.

Taiwan has expressed interest in refreshing its existing US-made battle tank inventory, which includes M60 Patton tanks.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in March said that the US was responding positively to Taipei’s requests for new arms sales to bolster its defenses in the face of pressure from China.

The US has no formal ties with Taiwan, but is bound by the Taiwan Relations Act to help provide it with the means to defend itself.

China and the US are engaged in a fierce trade dispute, with clashes over Taiwan and the South China Sea exacerbating tensions.

A spokesman for the US Department of State, which oversees foreign military sales, said that the US government does not comment on or confirm potential or pending arms sales or transfers before Congress is formally notified.

The congressional notifications included a variety of anti-tank munitions, including 409 Raytheon and Lockheed Martin-made Javelin missiles worth as much as US$129 million, two of the sources said.

The notifications also included 1,240 anti-tank missiles worth as much as US$299 million, one of the sources said.

There were also 250 portable anti-aircraft missiles worth as much as US$223 million in the notifications, the source said.

The Ministry of National Defense confirmed that it had requested those weapons and that the request was proceeding normally.

It submitted four requests to Washington, including those for 108 M1A2 Abrams tanks, 1,240 BGM-71 anti-tank missiles, 409 FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 250 FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, the ministry said in a statement.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) yesterday expressed "grave concern" over the proposed arms sale, which he said would "seriously harm China-US relations and peace in the Taiwan Strait."

US President Donald Trump’s administration last year rolled out a long-awaited overhaul of US arms export policy aimed at expanding sales to allies, saying that it would bolster the US defense industry and create jobs at home.

US Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter Navarro was one of the administration’s architects of that policy.

Navarro, a China hawk, wrote about the possible sale of tanks to Taiwan in a March opinion column in the New York Times ahead of a presidential trip to the Lima, Ohio, plant where they are made.

At a low point, the US Army had only one tank coming from the plant per month, General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic said in an April conference call with investors, but added: “We’ll be rolling out 30 tanks a month by the end of this year,” partly because of international orders.

The Pentagon last week announced that it would sell 34 ScanEagle drones, made by Boeing, to the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam for a total of US$47 million.

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