Biden administration preparing $1.1bn arms sale to Taiwan

China says it 'firmly opposes' US selling arms to the territory

The PFG2-1110 Cheng Kung-class guided-missile frigate seen in Taiwan. China has said American arms sales to Taiwan are a threat to its security. EPA
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US President Joe Biden's administration is preparing to sell $1.1 billion in missiles and radar support to Taiwan, an official familiar with the matter said, in what would be the largest such transfer in almost two years.

The package would include as much as $650 million in continued support for a surveillance radar sold earlier and about $90m for roughly 100 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, as well as about 60 additional anti-ship Harpoon missiles, the official said. Both weapons have been sold to Taiwan previously.

The State Department informally notified Congress of the sale late on Monday. Even though it offers Taiwan no new military capability, the move could prompt protests from China, which has said American arms sales to Taiwan are a threat to its security and a breach of the agreements that established diplomatic relations with the US.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the US to stop arms sales and military contact with Taiwan in a Tuesday statement sent to Bloomberg.

“China firmly opposes the US selling arms to China’s Taiwan region,” it said. “This is consistent and clear.”

A separate person familiar with the matter said there have been several conversations between the administration and Congress about arms sales to Taiwan.

The planned arms sale was reported by Politico earlier on Monday.

The notification marks the beginning of several weeks of staff consultations that will result in a formal arms sale proposal from the State Department.

With support for Taiwan running high among both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the package is likely to face little resistance.

A representative for the US National Security Council, who asked not to be identified, declined to respond in detail and said only that the US would continue fulfilling its responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act to support the territory's self-defence.

A State Department representative said, as a matter of policy, that the department does not publicly comment or confirm proposed defence sales until Congress has been formally notified.

The sale would be the largest since a $2.4bn deal including Harpoon missiles in October 2020, and the largest since Mr Biden took office.

The president is facing calls to accelerate American weapon transfers to Taiwan to deter China from acting militarily against the democratically governed island.

Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the highest-ranking US official in a quarter of a century to visit Taiwan, prompting Beijing to afterward conduct military drills and fire missiles over the island for the first time.

Chinese warplanes have flown across the US-established median line that divides the Taiwan Strait — once a rare occurrence — on all but one day since Ms Pelosi’s August 2 arrival.

Updated: August 30, 2022, 6:37 PM