The possible sale, which has not been finalized, has once again angered China as the United States seeks to deepen ties with Taiwan.
The United States has approved the potential sale of howitzer artillery systems to Taiwan in a deal valued at $750 million, the Pentagon has announced, drawing condemnation from China.
The State Department’s approval announced Wednesday follows arms sales to the island last year, which included drones and coastal missile defenses intended to improve Taiwan’s capabilities and deter a possible invasion from China, which claims that Taiwan is run democratically as its own territory, to be taken by force if necessary.
The package would include 40 artillery systems of M109A6 155mm medium self-propelled howitzers, 1,698 precision guidance kits for ammunition, spares, training, ground stations and upgrades for the previous generation Taiwanese howitzers, the Pentagon said.
President Joe Biden’s administration has approved other direct commercial arms sales to Taiwan since taking office in early 2021 and has sought to further deepen ties with the island, sparking outrage in Beijing.
The Pentagon’s Security and Defense Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale on Wednesday.
Like most nations, the United States has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is required by a 1979 law to provide the self-governing island with the means to defend itself and is its main international support.
Despite State Department approval, the notification does not indicate that a contract has been signed or that negotiations have ended.
If such a deal is formalized, Congress could also legally pass legislation blocking the sale, although there has been little political will to stop US arms sales to Taiwan in recent years, Republicans and Democrats having largely prioritized what they call confronting Chinese aggression.
On Thursday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry expressed its “sincere gratitude” to the US government, saying in a statement that the sales would help its ground forces increase their “rapid reaction and fire support capability”.
The ministry called continued U.S. arms support a “basis for maintaining regional stability.”
Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry said it was “firmly opposed” to the sales and filed “stern representations” with Washington, according to a spokesperson’s comments on the ministry’s website.
The spokesperson said the sales were “interfering” in China’s internal affairs and warned that Beijing would take countermeasures as the problem developed.