The US State Department announced on Monday that it had approved a possible arms sale worth over $2 billion to Taiwan. However, the decision, which has not been made final, is not sitting well with China, who considers Taiwan to be one of its territories.
According to the Pentagon’s Defense Security and Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the sale became a possibility in June, and at that time they said that it “will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region.”
This idea was reiterated on Monday when the announcement of its approval by the State Department was made. “This proposed sale serves US national, economic, and security interests by supporting the recipient’s continuing efforts to modernize its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability.”
However, the problem lies in the fact that Taiwan is not its own separate entity or a sovereign state, and while it has its own president, it is ultimately ruled by China. It is, in fact, officially known as the Republic of China (ROC). Mainland China, to the west, is known as the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
China has been trying to unify itself with Taiwan for some time now and has said it will do so by force if necessary. The government residing in Beijing has even gone so far as to implement a policy that states that China will no longer have any diplomatic relationships with any state or nation that chooses to recognize the island nation of Taiwan as a separate and sovereign state.
However, Taiwan is partial to the idea of becoming its own nation and currently has a very pro-independence president. It is he, Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking the arms deal and continued growth in relationship with the US.
When the sale was first reported in June, China was swift to contact the US and voice their disapproval.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang that China was “severely concerned about the US’s move.” And he added, “We are firmly against US arms sales to Taiwan. We urge the US to see the high sensitivity and severe harm of arms sales to Taiwan.”
The sale is outlined to include 250 Stinger missiles, 108 General Dynamics M1A2T Abrams tanks, and could also contain ammunition, smoke grenade launchers, and machine guns.
Amid the already thick tensions between China and her smaller territory, this comes at a time when the US is not seen in a particularly favorable light either due to recent and ongoing trade wars with China.
China is adamant that this possible sale should be canceled and that it “seriously violates the one-China principle.” In addition, Shuang stated that it “grossly interferes with China’s internal affairs and undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests.
It has been noted that China has already made a formal complaint of the sale and is going through the process of opposing it through their “diplomatic channels.” They ask that the US “immediately cancel the planned arms sale and stop military relations with Taipei” to avoid disrupting stability in the Taiwan Strait.
But it would seem that the arms sale is a way to honor a foreign policy that was issued in 1982. The policy is known as the “Six Assurances” and is made up of six foreign policy principles with the goal of providing continued support, and the reassurance of that support, to Taiwan even if they are ever without formal diplomatic relations. It is also noted that the US has been Taiwan’s primary military supplier for some time with no conflicts.
Furthermore, the DSCA claims that this sale, while helping to improve Taiwan’s military security, it will not disrupt the balance of military presence in the region.
Now that the potential sale has been approved by the State Department, it will go to Congress where its members will have 30 days to deliberate on its conditions and raise any objections. However, it is not expected to be met with much, if any, opposition.
The president of Taiwan has already expressed his “sincere thanks” to the US for their continued support and says they will “continue to deepen security ties with the US.”