Historically high tensions with China aren’t stopping the Trump Administration from moving forward with a massive arms sale to Taiwan.
The administration plans to sell $7 billion worth of weapons to the Taiwan military in one of the largest arms deals in the island democracy’s history. According to government officials, the transaction will include an arsenal of high-tech weaponry like cruise missiles, mines, and other hardware. The deal also includes a $400 million sale of MQ-9B Reaper drones and their accompanying sensors, logistics, training, and ground control equipment.
Supporting Taiwan has become a priority under President Trump. The U.S. has already sold roughly $15 billion worth of weapons to the country during the president’s term. That doesn’t include the aforementioned sale. The White House’s efforts to equip Taiwan place additional political and military pressure on China. However, the latest deal is more substantial than previous sales.
Taiwan is an island, so earlier sales of tanks and other equipment didn’t give the tiny nation a significant offensive capability against China. Those types of weapons would only be useful in a land-based conflict. This would likely only come into play if China mounted an all-out invasion into the country.
Taiwan Arms Sales
China considers Taiwan a rebel state, and a military campaign isn’t out of the question. However, such a move would almost certainly provoke a significant political response and possible military action from the global community.
However, experts believe the inclusion of cruise missiles and drones in this deal marks a significant escalation of U.S. efforts to pressure Beijing. These weapons could give Taiwan an offensive strike capability against the Chinese mainland.
The deal still needs to clear Congress. However, that could be a difficult task. The constantly contentious Democrats will probably find a reason to criticize the deal. They will do so for the simple fact it’s associated with President Trump. The inclusion of the strategically-sensitive drone systems could become a point of controversy once the deal goes to Congress for approval.
After initially courting the Chinese government in hopes of obtaining a balanced trade deal, all bets were off once the coronavirus outbreak emanated from China under suspicious circumstances. Since then, the Trump White House has stepped up its efforts to combat Chinese expansionism. The administration is using a wide array of tactics to apply pressure on Beijing from all fronts. Additionally, one leg of that strategy is helping Taiwan modernize its military.
China has become increasingly brazen in its efforts to project military power as of late. There have been several instances of Chinese forces harassing and intimidating neighboring countries since the coronavirus outbreak began. In one instance, 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese were killed in a hand-to-hand border skirmish near a contested region of the Nepal border.
Trump has been more willing to provide weaponry to the region than previous presidents. Taiwan is also taking everything it can get. There’s no guarantee that the arms sales to Taiwan will continue to flow if Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden takes the Oval Office in November. Many experts believe Biden will take a soft stance on China in hopes of appeasing the Chinese Communist Party. Therefore, there’s a good chance that arms sales could be drastically reduced if he wins.
Until then, President Trump’s administration will do what it can to help the Taiwanese military strap up for a potential conflict with its menacing neighbor. In July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo summed up the White House’s position on Taiwan at a speech to the Economic Club of New York, “This administration has taken seriously its commitment to provide Taiwan with the tools that it needs for its own security.”