Sunday 16 June 2019

Beijing furious as US lines up €2bn tank deal with Taiwan

Pressure: Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen. AP Photo/Wally Santana
Pressure: Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen. AP Photo/Wally Santana

Mike Stone in Washington

The United States is pursuing the sale of more than $2bn (€1.8bn) of tanks and weapons to Taiwan, four sources have 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 US Congress, the four sources said on condition of anonymity.

The potential sale included 108 General Dynamics Corp M1A2 Abrams tanks worth around $2bn as well as anti-tank and anti-aircraft munitions, three of the sources said.

Taiwan has been interested in refreshing its existing US-made battle tank inventory, which includes M60 Patton tanks.

The US is the main arms supplier to Taiwan, which China deems its own. Beijing has also never renounced the use of force to bring the self-ruled island under its control.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said in March that Washington was responding positively to Taipei's requests for new arms sales to bolster its defences in the face of pressure from China.

The US has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide the country with the means to defend itself.

China and the US are engaged in a fierce trade war, with clashes over Taiwan and the South China Sea exacerbating tensions.

A spokesman for the State Department said the US government does not comment on or confirm potential or pending arms sales or transfers before they have been formally notified to Congress.

Taiwan's defence ministry confirmed it had requested the weapons and that the request was proceeding normally.

The US commitment to providing Taiwan with the weapons to defend itself helps Taiwan's military to raise its combat abilities, consolidates the Taiwan-US security partnership, and ensures Taiwan's security, the ministry said.

The Chinese government condemned the planned sale.

"We are severely concerned about the US move and are firmly against US arms sales to Taiwan," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a news briefing in Beijing.

Irish Independent

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