U.S. Pushes Three Weapons Deals With Taiwan to Counter Chinese Invasion Threat

President Donald Trump's administration is pushing ahead with a raft of weapons sales to Taiwan, as the democratic island faces increasing pressure from China over its continued independence.

Multiple reports on Monday indicated that the White House has sent notifications of three of seven planned Taiwan weapons deals to Congress for approval, in a move that underscores the administration's backing for Taipei in the face of an increasingly assertive Chinese Communist Party.

Reuters was the first to report Congressional notification for the three deals. The agency said the deals are for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) from Lockheed Martin, Boeing's Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response, and external sensor pods for F-16 fighter jets.

The other weapons deals not yet sent to Congress for approval include advanced aerial drones, land-based anti-ship missiles and underwater mines. All will be intended to deter an amphibious Chinese landing. Reuters sources said notifications for the remaining four deals would be sent to lawmakers soon.

The U.S. has long supported Taiwanese independence through weapons sales, despite repeated protests from Beijing. The Chinese government has repeatedly warned that U.S. weapon sales to the island threaten regional peace and put Taiwan in a more dangerous position.

Though Washington, D.C. does not officially recognize Taiwan, it has an implicit commitment to defend the island against Chinese invasion per the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

Taiwan has been independent since the end of the Chinese Civil War, as the last bastion of the defeated nationalist forces. The CCP has always vowed to bring the island under its control as part of its "One China" policy, whether through diplomatic means or force of arms.

National security adviser Robert O'Brien said last week that Taiwan should adopt a "porcupine" defensive strategy. "Lions generally don't like to eat porcupines," O'Brien said, referring to China.

The three deals sent to Congress for approval will certainly give the Taiwan porcupine more quills. All could help Taiwanese troops defend against the Chinese amphibious assault that would be required to take control of the island, and something that the People's Liberation Army has long been openly preparing for.

The HIMARS system is a truck-based rocket launcher in U.S. service since the late 1990s. It allows operators to quickly target enemies and fire a barrage of rockets before driving away, making it difficult to locate the weapon and retaliate.

The guided missiles—which have also been successfully tested against naval targets—have a maximum range of around 190 miles. U.S. forces have used the HIMARS in the war in Afghanistan, in support of Iraqi troops fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq, and alongside Kurdish troops fighting ISIS in Syria.

The SLAM-ER is a long-range air-to-ground guided missile capable of attacking land and sea targets out to a range of around 170 miles. It is already deployed with the U.S., Saudi, Emirati, Turkish and South Korean militaries. Among the planes that can launch the SLAM-ER is the Lockheed P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft, which is operated by Taiwan.

The external sensor pods picked for sale to Taiwan will allow Taipei's American-made F-16 fighter jets to send real-time images and data back to ground control stations, giving Taiwanese forces a better picture of any ongoing Chinese action.

The Trump administration recently announced an $8 billion deal to sell 66 new F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan. They will join around 140 existing F-16s in the Taiwanese arsenal. China's state-backed Global Times newspaper said the deal was "yet another U.S. provocation and a step on the red line of the Taiwan question, which further risks confrontation."

China has regularly accused the U.S. of meddling in regional politics and risking war by supporting Taiwan. The war of words between Washington, D.C. and Beijing has become particularly pointed during the coronavirus pandemic, amid concerns over the CCP's domestic human rights abuses and due to territorial disputes with neighbors.

In an editorial published Sunday, Global Times said Taiwan is now "fully coordinating with the new policy of the U.S. to contain the Chinese mainland" and accused President Tsai Ing-wen of turning "completely hostile toward the Chinese mainland, and this issue can no longer be resolved through dialogue. The malevolent force might have to be subdued through military means."

Taiwan, China, military, invasion, deals, sales
A U.S.-made F-16V fighter jet releases flares during the annual Han Kuang military drills in Taichung, Taiwan on July 16, 2020. SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images/Getty