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State Department officials approved the first arms sale to Taiwan of President Joe Biden’s tenure as the administration seeks to support the beleaguered island democracy without stumbling into an outright military confrontation with China.
"By providing us with defensive weapons and helping us strengthen our self-defense capabilities, the US government is improving Taiwan's confidence in our efforts to ensure regional security and peace in the Taiwan Strait,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s office said in a statement released Thursday.
The deal has an estimated value of $750 million and includes an arms package centered on 40 medium self-propelled M109A6 howitzers, a mobile artillery vehicle with a range of up to 18 miles. Tsai’s team hailed the approval as a testament to “the great importance the US government attaches to Taiwan's defense capabilities,” as the Americans seek to deter a Chinese invasion of the island without signaling that the United States will support international recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign country.
“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,” a State Department bulletin released late Wednesday emphasized. "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.”
Chinese Communist Party officials, who have claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since their rise to power in Beijing even though they have never ruled the island, condemned the sale.
“It is sending a wrong signal to Taiwanese independence forces, and causing serious damage to China-US relations and the stability of the Taiwan Strait,” the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry protested. “China will take countermeasures to defend its legitimate interests.”
Biden’s team has made an effort recently to manage Beijing’s worst fears about U.S. policy toward Taiwan without yielding to China’s demand that Washington curtail its support for the island. "We support a strong unofficial relationship with Taiwan,” Kurt Campbell, White House National Security Council's Indo-Pacific coordinator, said last month. “We do not support Taiwan independence.”
Chinese state media responded to the sale by stating that “Taiwan's security can only be achieved” by acquiescing to Beijing’s claim to sovereignty. “The armed forces in Taiwan should be clear that once a war breaks out, the only way to survive is to surrender, and all resistance is pointless,” the Global Times editorial declared.
That statement nearly coincided with a minor controversy over the White House social media team’s deletion of a tweet that included an image of Taiwan’s flag. Taiwanese officials responded by urging the Biden administration not to cause "unnecessary speculation or misunderstanding" about his administration’s posture toward Taiwan, just as they celebrated the subsequent arms sale.
“Taiwan will continue to deepen cooperation with the US and other like-minded countries, contributing to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and promoting development and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” Tsai’s office said Thursday.
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Original Author: Joel Gehrke
Original Location: Taiwan hails first arms sale of Biden presidency