The United States is pursuing the sale of more than $2 billion worth of tanks and weapons to Taiwan, four people familiar with the negotiations said, sparking anger from Beijing which is already involved in an escalating trade war with Washington.
An informal notification of the proposed sale has been sent to the U.S. Congress, the four sources said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the possible deal.
The potential sale included 108 General Dynamics Corp M1A2 Abrams tanks worth around $2 billion as well as anti-tank and anti-aircraft munitions, three of the sources said. Taiwan has been interested in refreshing its existing U.S.-made battle tank inventory, which includes M60 Patton tanks.
The United States is the main arms supplier to Taiwan, which China deems its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring the self-ruled island under its control.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said in March Washington was responding positively to Taipei’s requests for new arms sales to bolster its defenses in the face of pressure from China. The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide it with the means to defend itself.
China and the United States are engaged in a fierce trade war, with clashes over Taiwan and the South China Sea exacerbating tensions.
A spokesman for the State Department, which oversees foreign military sales, said the U.S. government does not comment on or confirm potential or pending arms sales or transfers before they have been formally notified to Congress.
The congressional notifications included a variety of anti-tank munitions, including 409 Raytheon Co and Lockheed Martin Corp-made Javelin missiles worth as much as $129 million, two of the sources said.
The notifications also included 1,240 TOW anti-tank missiles worth as much as $299 million, one of the sources said. There were also 250 stinger missiles worth as much as $223 million in the notification, the source said.
Stingers are often used in portable anti-aircraft weapons systems.
aiwan’s Defense Ministry confirmed it had requested those weapons and that the request was proceeding normally.
The U.S. commitment to providing Taiwan with the weapons to defend itself helps Taiwan’s military to raise its combat abilities, consolidates the Taiwan-U.S. security partnership and ensures Taiwan’s security, the ministry said in a statement.
The Chinese government condemned the planned sale.
“We are severely concerned about the U.S. move and are firmly against U.S. arms sales to Taiwan,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
China urges the United States to stop arms sales to Taiwan and prudently deal with issues relating to Taiwan to prevent harm to bilateral relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, he added.