The Trump administration is planning to undergird its mounting pressure campaign against communist China with a dramatic expansion in U.S. weapons sales to the democratic island of Taiwan, whose independence has long been threatened by Beijing.
Sources familiar with the plan have told Reuters that the U.S. plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems, including mines, cruise missiles and drones to Taiwan — building on an effort known within the Pentagon as “Fortress Taiwan” aimed at countering Chinese military forces in the region.
While the U.S. has a long history of selling weaponry to Taiwan, the news agency reported on Tuesday that the pursuit of seven sales at once is a rare departure from precedent in which sales to the island have been spaced out and calibrated to minimize tension with Beijing.
China and Taiwan have been governed separately since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s when Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists lost to Mao Zedong’s communists. The nationalists subsequently fled the mainland and established their own government on the island of Taiwan.
While Washington technically does not recognize Taiwanese sovereignty from China, it has a special relationship with the island democracy’s 23 million people and laws in place that require the United States to protect Taiwan from Chinese aggression.
President Trump emboldened Washington’s posture toward the situation days before taking office in 2016 when, as president-elect, he made global headlines by phoning Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to express his support for Taiwanese democracy. The call was reported as the first in 40 years between a Taiwanese leader and an American president-elect.
Beijing responded angrily and has spent recent years ramping up Chinese military provocations near Taiwan, which is situated just 80 miles off the coast of mainland China. In early 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping stated outright that Beijing’s goal is to absorb Taiwan and that China could use “force” to achieve the goal if necessary.
Reuters noted Tuesday that Taiwan’s military is well-trained and well-equipped with mostly U.S.-made hardware, but China has a huge numerical superiority and is adding advanced equipment of its own.
The news agency claimed the new U.S. weapons slated for Taiwan — comprised of packages from Lockheed Martin Co LMT.N, Boeing BA.N and General Atomics — are now moving their way through the export process, according to three people familiar with the status of the deals on Capitol Hill, and that a notification to Congress is expected within weeks.