WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is pushing the sale of seven large packages of weapons to Taiwan, including long-range missiles that would allow Taiwanese jets to hit distant Chinese targets in the event of a conflict, say officials familiar with the proposals.
If approved by Congress, the packages, valued in the billions, would be one of the largest weapons transfers in recent years to Taiwan. The administration plans to informally notify lawmakers of the sales within weeks.
By law, the US government is required to provide weapons of a defensive nature to Taiwan, a self-governing, democratic island. China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, has escalated its military activity near the island after Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, won reelection in January by beating a candidate viewed as friendlier to Beijing.
The proposed sales come as President Donald Trump and his campaign strategists try to paint him as tough on China in the run-up to the election in November. They are eager to divert the conversation among American voters away from Trump’s vast failures on the coronavirus pandemic and the economy, and to paper over his constant praise for Xi Jinping, China’s authoritarian leader, and his earlier encouragement or tolerance of some of Xi’s most repressive policies, including in the regions of Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
Some administration officials see bolstering Taiwan as an important part of creating a broader military counterweight to China in Asia. Taiwan has strong bipartisan support in Congress, so administration officials expect lawmakers to approve the arms sales.
Relations between the United States and China have plummeted to their lowest point in decades, as the two nations openly challenge each other on a wide range of issues, including trade, technology, diplomatic relations and military dominance of Asia.
The most sensitive weapon system of the proposed packages to Taiwan is an air-to-ground missile, the AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER, made by Boeing. Because of its range, it can be fired by jets flying beyond the reach of China’s air defense system. The missiles could hit targets on the Chinese mainland or at sea, including warships trying to cross the Taiwan Strait. The proposed sale of the missile, which is likely to cause concern among Chinese military officials, has not been previously reported.
The missiles can be used with F-16 fighter jets that the United States has sold Taiwan.
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