US approves Taiwan drone purchase as arms sales escalate

Politics

Taiwan’s defense ministry spokesperson Shih Shun-wen speaks during a briefing in Taipei, Taiwan on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Taiwan said Tuesday that recent proposed of U.S. sales of missiles and other arms systems will boost the island’s ability to credibly defend itself, amid rising threats from China. (AP Photo/Wu Taijing)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration has notified Congress that it has approved the sale of $600 million in armed drones to Taiwan, the latest in a series of arms transfers for the island.

The State Department said Tuesday it had Ok’d Taiwan’s purchase of four “weapons ready” remotely piloted aircraft and related equipment. The move is likely to infuriate China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province and has reacted angrily to previous weapons sales’ announcements to the island.

“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,” it said. “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.”

It said the sale would improve Taiwan’s defense by bolstering its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and could help deter military action against it.

Just last week, the administration approved plans for a $2.37 billion sale of Harpoon missile systems to Taiwan. That came hours after Beijing had announced sanctions on U.S. defense contractors, including Boeing, the lead contractor on the Harpoon deal, over a previous weapons deal.

China’s ruling Communist Party claims Taiwan, which split with the mainland in 1949 during a civil war, as part of its territory and has threatened to invade. Washington promised in the 1980s to reduce and eventually end weapons sales to Taiwan but insists its dispute with Beijing must be settled peacefully.

Chinese-U.S. relations have plunged to their lowest level in decades amid disputes about security, technology, the coronavirus pandemic and human rights.

Taiwan has long been an irritant in relations. Washington has no formal relations with the island’s democratically-elected government but is its main ally. U.S. law requires the government to ensure Taiwan can defend itself. Weapons sales to the island have increased in quantity and quality.

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