By Frank Fang
TAIPEI, Taiwan—The United States has approved a potential $100 million sale of equipment and services to boost the island’s Patriot missile defense system, amid China’s increasing aggression against the self-ruled island.
The money would be used to “sustain, maintain, and improve” the missile defense system, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in a statement on Feb. 7.
“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,” DSCA said.
The agency added, “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.”
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sees Taiwan as part of its territory that must be united with the mainland, by force if necessary. However, internationally, Taiwan is widely recognized as a de facto independent body, given that it has been governed as a separate entity for more than seven decades.
In light of its ambitions toward Taiwan and the broader Asia–Pacific region, Beijing has been engaged in an aggressive program of military modernization.
U.S. military officials and China experts have given different timelines as to when China might attack Taiwan.
In March 2021, Adm. Philip Davidson, who was then-head of U.S. Indo–Pacific Command, told a Senate hearing that the Chinese regime could invade Taiwan in the “next six years.” Weeks later, Davidson’s successor at the Command, Adm. John Aquilino, testified in front of another Senate hearing that China might attack Taiwan sooner “than most think.”
Currently, the United States has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, ever since Washington changed its diplomatic recognition in favor of Beijing in 1979. However, the two sides have enjoyed a robust relationship based on the Taiwan Relations Act, a law that authorizes the United States to provide the island with military equipment for self-defense.
DSCA also said that the main contractors for the sale would be U.S. defense giants Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin.
Beijing has reacted angrily to the sale. On Feb. 8, Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, condemned the pending sale and demanded Washington to revoke the deal immediately during a daily briefing, according to China’s state-run media.
Also on Tuesday, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it “highly welcomed” the U.S. decision in a statement.
“In the face of China’s continued military expansion and provocative actions, our country will maintain its national security with a solid defense, and continue to deepen the close security partnership between Taiwan and the United States, in order to contribute to the long-term peace, stability, and prosperity of the Indo–Pacific region,” the ministry said.
In recent years, Taiwan has been bearing the brunt of persistent Chinese military harassment, with military jets flying into the island’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on a regular basis. According to Taiwan’s defense ministry, there were about 380 sorties in 2020, which more than doubled to 961 sorties in 2021.
The Chinese regime’s largest show of force took place on Oct. 4, when 56 military aircraft breached the island’s ADIZ. In the month of January, there were only seven days when the ministry didn’t report a Chinese incursion.
This marks the second U.S. arms sale to Taiwan under the Biden administration. In August 2021, the United States approved the possible $750 million sale of 40 155-millimeter M109A6 Medium Self-Propelled Howitzer artillery systems and other military equipment, according to DSCA.
Xavier Chang, spokesperson for Taiwan’s Presidential Office, said the sale demonstrates a “rock-solid bilateral partnership,” according to a Feb. 8 statement.
On Tuesday, Taiwan’s defense ministry said the sale was expected to “come into effect” within one month.
DSCA said it had delivered the required certification notifying Congress of the possible sale, following the State Department’s approval of the deal.