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US approves potential sale of military assistance to Chinese Taipei

The file photo shows a drill in Hsinchu, Chinese Taipei, January 2021. (File photo by Reuters)

The US Department of State has approved the potential sale of military technical assistance to Chinese Taipei worth an estimated $108 million, the Pentagon says, amid a long-living feud between China and the self-ruled island.

"The proposed sale will contribute to the sustainment of the recipient's vehicles, small arms, combat weapon systems, and logistical support items, enhancing its ability to meet current and future threats," the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement on Friday.

The sale would also enhance Taipei’s military interoperability with the United States and other allies, and the self-governed island's armed forces would have no difficulty absorbing the equipment and support, the statement added.

According to the Pentagon, Taipei requested the latest assistance, which includes spare and repair parts for tanks and combat vehicles as well as technical and logistical support.

Meanwhile, Taipei's Defense Ministry said in a statement the deal is expected to "become effective" within a month. It said in the face of the expanding military threat of China, “properly maintaining equipment is as important as newly purchased weapons and equipment.”

The first major arms sale to Taipei under US President Joe Biden was in August 2021, which saw the approval of 40 Howitzer artillery systems.

Last year, the United States also sold arms to Chinese Taipei that included drones and coastal missile defenses aimed at upgrading the island’s capabilities against mainland China.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers, the president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, has welcomed the latest deal, but said it was a sign the Biden administration is focused on sustainment and munitions support for the self-ruled island, and that force modernization of its military "is no longer a priority."

Chinese Taipei falls under China’s sovereignty, and under the ‘One China’ policy, almost all world countries — the United States included — recognize that sovereignty. But, in violation of its own stated policy and in an attempt to irritate Beijing, Washington has recently ramped up diplomatic contact with the self-proclaimed government in Chinese Taipei. Washington is also the island’s largest weaponry supplier.

Friction between Chinese Taipei and China has been at its deepest in decades. China has been flying fighter jets close to Chinese Taipei while the US has reportedly had troops deployed in the territory for training purposes for the past year.

China has in the past said its military exercises near Chinese Taipei are a “solemn warning” to secessionist factions in the self-ruled island and their foreign backers, particularly the United States.

China has also warned Taipei against playing with fire, saying “war may be triggered at any time.”

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