Taiwan is set to buy a wide assortment of military hardware from the US, thanks to a $1.8 billion deal announced yesterday (Dec. 16). The purchases will include amphibious assault vehicles, anti-tank missiles, and portable air defense systems, as well as two decommissioned US Navy Perry-class frigates.
The US Congress has 30 days to review the deal, but no problems are anticipated. A 1979 US law commits Washington to help Taiwan defend itself, and many lawmakers have criticized the Obama administration for not moving faster. “I remain deeply concerned about the administration’s delays that needlessly dragged out this process,” said representative Ed Royce, chairman of the house foreign affairs committee. The deal would be the first major US arms sale to Taiwan in more than four years, Reuters reports.
Beijing, which considers Taiwan part of China, quickly expressed anger over the announcement and summoned the local US charge d’affaires, Kaye Lee, to discuss the deal, Xinhua reports. “Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory. China strongly opposes the US arms sale to Taiwan,” said foreign minister Zheng Zeguang. “To safeguard our national interests, China has decided to take necessary measures, including imposing sanctions against the companies involved in the arms sale.”
The only companies named in the deal so far have been Raytheon Missile Systems, its parent Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin.
China’s stance is “unmistakable,” an op-ed in Xinhua said. The nation “seeks peaceful reunification and will never use force against the island as along as it does not announce independence or seek to split from the mainland.”
There are signs beyond weapons purchases that Taiwan is moving further away from China than ever before. The pro-independence candidate in Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election leads in local polls, and a growing youth movement is demanding that China treat Taiwan as a country, not a province.