The Biden administration has informed Congress about a proposed $750 million weapons sale to Taiwan, escalating tensions with Beijing.
According to a State Department spokesperson, two congressional sources, and a notification from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the administration gave notice of the planned sale on Wednesday. The purchase includes 40 M109A6 Medium Self-Propelled Howitzer Systems as well as supporting equipment.
“If concluded, this proposed sale will contribute to the modernization of Taiwan’s howitzer fleet, strengthening its self-defense capabilities to meet current and future threats,” the spokesperson said.
According to CNN, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez had already cleared the sale as part of the informal review process, which is a common practice in which the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees are given advance notice of planned sales, allowing committee leadership to raise concerns, provide input, or place holds.
This source said Menendez sees it “as yet another statement of the Biden administration’s serious intent to get strategy in the Indo-Pacific right, and its commitment to stand with our ally Taiwan.”
Under the terms of the decades-old Taiwan Relations Act, the United States has long provided arms to the island, and there is bipartisan support for doing so. The Trump administration informed Congress in October of a proposed $1.8 billion in advanced weapons system sales to Taiwan, and the administration had previously approved several major arms sales to Taiwan totaling more than $13 billion, including dozens of F-16 fighter jets, M1A2T Abrams tanks, portable Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, and MK-48 Mod6 torpedoes.
Beijing has denounced the sales, calling them an affront to Chinese sovereignty. Though the two have been governed separately since the end of a bloody civil war in 1949, the country’s communist government considers Taiwan to be part of its territory.
China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement released Thursday that it was “firmly opposed” to the Biden administration’s proposed sales and had made “solemn representations” to the US.
“[The proposed weapons sale] sends wrong signals to the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces and seriously damages Sino-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” the statement said. “China will resolutely take proper and necessary countermeasures in accordance with the development of the situation.”
According to a senior administration official and a State Department spokesperson, President Joe Biden dispatched an unofficial delegation to Taiwan in April to show support for the island.
In April, the State Department said it had “issued new guidelines for US government interaction with Taiwan counterparts” in order to “encourage US government engagement with Taiwan that reflects our deepening unofficial relationship.”
At the time, State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “The guidance underscores Taiwan is a vibrant democracy and an important security and economic partner that is also a force for good in the international community.
“These new guidelines liberalize guidance on contacts with Taiwan, consistent with our unofficial relations, and provide clarity throughout the Executive Branch on effective implementation of our ‘one China’ policy, which is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances,” Price said.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the lifting of decades-old restrictions on interactions between American and Taiwanese officials shortly before leaving office in January.