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US to sell $1.1 billion worth of anti-ship and air-to-air weapons to Taiwan

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On Friday, the Biden administration formally informed Congress of its intention to sell Taiwan $1.1 billion worth of defensive weapons as Beijing continues its increased military air and sea presence around the island following a a high-profile visit to Taipei by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month. .

The package, which includes 60 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, 100 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and support for a surveillance radar system, is the fifth and largest arms sale to Taiwan advanced by the Biden administration. It is widely expected to authorize Congress, which plans to legislate to increase the amount of security aid provided to Taiwan over the next four years.

These sales typically take several years to deliver due to larger structural challenges in how foreign military sales are conducted. Laura Rosenberger, the White House’s senior director for Taiwan and China, said the administration had undertaken a “substantial effort” to expedite the process. “We are acutely aware of the need to expedite delivery,” she said.

The package, which was first reported by Policy, is part of the administration’s broader strategy to deter aggression from Beijing, officials said. The strategy also calls for working with allies and partners through joint exercises in the region and building Taipei’s economic resilience so it can withstand increased pressure from China, they said. The United States will soon launch trade negotiations with Taiwan.

“The biggest threats Taiwan will face will come from the sea and the air,” Rosenberger said. “So it’s really essential that they can use the Harpoons to support coastal defense and the Sidewinders to support their air defense.”

Taiwan to increase defense spending to deter Chinese military threat

Rosenberger stressed, however, that the administration sees China’s threat to Taiwan as long-term and therefore Washington’s response must be both sustained and comprehensive. Last month, for example, the United States conducted a joint air exercise with Japan near Okinawa, and last week it sent two American warships across the Taiwan Strait – the first transit of this guy since Pelosi’s visit.

“We won’t be reflexive or instinctive,” White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell told reporters last month. “We will be patient and efficient, we will continue to navigate and operate where international law permits.”

Taiwan’s status is the thorniest issue in US-China relations. Washington, as part of its one China policy, recognizes Beijing as the sole legal government of China. But he never endorsed Beijing’s position that Taiwan, a self-governing island, is part of China. Nevertheless, under the 1979 Relations with Taiwan Act, the United States undertakes to provide Taipei with the “defense articles and defense services” necessary to enable it to defend itself.

For months and even years before Pelosi’s visit, Beijing was stepping up its aggressive actions in the region. President Xi Jinping saw the visit by Pelosi, who was the most senior US official to visit the island since Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in 1997, as a very provocative and effective effort to further change relations between Washington and Taipei. .

Xi Jinping asked Biden to stop Pelosi from traveling to Taiwan

But the Biden administration has said it is China that seeks to overturn the status quo. “What we see is a real effort by Beijing to increase its campaign of coercive pressure against Taiwan,” Rosenberger said. “We believe that Beijing is trying to change the status quo and that its efforts are jeopardizing peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

Arms sales backlogs are getting worse because demand increases as threats grow around the world, experts have said. “It usually takes four or five years for weapons to be delivered and deployed – that’s a normal timeline for the foreign military sales process,” said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, chairman of the US-Taiwan Business Council, which closely monitors arms sales.

“The ability of major defense contractors to ramp up production quickly just isn’t there,” he said. “It’s for fighter jets, ships, missiles. When we need more HIMARS [multiple-rocket launchers] for Ukraine, there is simply no capacity in the production lines.

According to Hammond-Chambers, none of the weapons from previous packages approved by the Biden administration have been delivered. In fact, very little equipment approved under the Trump administration for Taiwan has been delivered, he said.

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is driving up demand for American arms in Eastern Europe. The threat from Iran is pushing purchases from the Emirates. In Asia, China’s military buildup has increased demand for American weapons from Indians, Australians and Japanese, he said.

“These are all real threats to our country, our friends and our partners,” he said. “When you come to prioritizing who gets what and when, is Iran the biggest threat? Is it Russia? Does China? The sequencing is really tricky.

The anti-ship and air-to-air missiles Washington is selling to Taipei are what the administration calls “asymmetric” in that they are intended to neutralize larger, more expensive assets such as warships or aircraft. of fight. But some analysts say ground-launched harpoons are more likely to survive Chinese targeting than those launched from F-16s, as this package calls for. Nevertheless, they are a step in the right direction, according to other analysts.

“No sale will solve Taiwan’s problems, but a sustained level of investment in anti-ship and anti-aircraft capabilities that builds credible stockpiles is a positive trend,” said Eric Sayers, former Indo-Pacific Command adviser. American. and now a non-resident member of the American Enterprise Institute.

Providing weapons to Taipei before a conflict is crucial because once fighting breaks out, it will be almost impossible to resupply Taiwan by land, sea or sea, analysts said. “NATO was able to supply arms to Ukraine relatively easily” via its land border with Poland, noted Bonnie Glaser, Asia program director at the German Marshall Fund. “If a conflict between Taiwan and China breaks out, a PLA [People’s Liberation Army] a blockade would prevent the United States from supplying weapons to Taiwan, so they must stockpile a large inventory of ammunition.