The US plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems — including mines, cruise missiles and drones — to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said.
Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from years of precedent in which US military sales to Taiwan were spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing.
However, US President Donald Trump’s administration has this year become more aggressive with China, and the sales would land as relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, lingering trade tensions, disputes about the COVID-19 pandemic, alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong’s new National Security Law.
At the same time, Taiwan’s desire to buy weapons increased after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was re-elected in January and she made bolstering the nation’s defenses a top priority.
Washington has been eager to create a military counterbalance to Chinese forces, building on an effort known within the Pentagon as “Fortress Taiwan,” as Beijing’s military makes increasingly aggressive moves in the region.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
The weapons packages from Lockheed Martin Co, Boeing Co and General Atomics are moving their way through the export process, three people on Capitol Hill familiar with the status of the deals said, and a notification to the US Congress is expected within weeks.
One industry source said that Trump is scheduled to be briefed on the arms packages this week by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Some of the deals had been requested by Taiwan more than a year ago, but are only now being moved through the approval process.
A US Department of State spokesman declined to comment.
A senior US official, citing Chinese assertiveness in the Taiwan Strait, said: “There is no equilibrium today. It is out of balance and I think that is dangerous.”
Trump’s White House has made an effort to export weapons to US allies as it tries to bolster their defenses, decrease dependence on US troops, and boost US companies and jobs.
As he campaigns for re-election on Nov. 3, Trump and Republican supporters have ramped up their rhetoric against Beijing and sought to portray former US vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, as soft on China.
Other factors include Taiwan’s bigger defense budget and the fear in Taiwan that if Trump loses, Biden would be less willing to sell the US’ most advanced weapons to the nation.
Taiwan is bolstering its defenses in the face of what it sees as increasingly threatening moves by Beijing, such as regular Chinese air and naval exercises near the nation.
The senior US official said that Taiwan’s increased defense spending is a good step, but that it needs to do more.
“Taiwan, frankly, needs to do more in order to ensure that they indigenously have an ability to deter Chinese aggression,” the US official said.
Late last night, the Ministry of National Defense issued a statement calling the Reuters report nothing more than "media speculation,” saying that the military does not discuss such deals publicly, and that it would report to the public whenever the State Department formally notifies the US Congress of any such deals.
Additional reporting by CNA
‘FREEDOM WINE’: Taiwanese are empathetic of Australians, the president said, while lawmakers called on their constituents to drink Australian wine to show their support Taiwan would take action to back Australians at a time when they are “under tremendous pressure,” President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday, as tensions between Australia and China heated up. Taipei and Canberra have been mutually supportive in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in exchanging critical medical materials in the early stages, Tsai said, before chairing the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Central Standing Committee meeting in Taipei. Taiwan and Australia are like-minded nations, sharing the common values of democracy, freedom and human rights, while their economic and trade relations have also become close, she said. Canberra has been voicing support for Taiwan’s international
VIGILANCE: From tomorrow all arrivals must provide the result of a PCR test issued within three days of boarding, and the CECC asked people to report anyone who has faked their result The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) expects an increase in the number of returning travelers in the coming days, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday, adding that the varying qualities of COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test reports from other countries is a big concern. Chen, who heads the center, was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a Taiwan Foundation for Rare Disorders scholarship award ceremony in Taipei. “As the global COVID-19 situation is worsening, and with some holidays coming up, there might be an increase in the number of overseas Taiwanese returning to Taiwan,” he
CECC RULES: The autumn-winter COVID-19 prevention program, including mandatory mask wearing in eight types of public venues and indoor facilities, begins today A temporary, two-week ban on Indonesian migrant workers entering the nation is to begin on Friday, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday as it reported 24 new imported cases of COVID-19. Twenty of the new cases are Indonesian migrant workers who arrived between Nov. 11 and Friday last week, said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center. The cases were discovered during a special project on Friday to conduct polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on all 939 recently arrived Indonesian migrant workers in centralized quarantine facilities, as the majority of imported cases in the past
Passports with a redesigned cover highlighting Taiwan would be issued starting on Jan. 11, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. The new cover design, which was announced on Sept. 2, highlights Taiwan by printing the word in a larger font. While the new passport cover retains “the Republic of China” in Chinese, the English name is printed along the outer circle of the national emblem, which would enable other nations to clearly identify that it is a Taiwanese passport, not a Chinese passport, the ministry said. The costs and application procedures for the new version are the same as