The US State Department has approved the potential sale of anti-tank systems worth an estimated $180 million to Chinese Taipei, as tensions continue between the US and China over the self-ruled island.
In a statement on Wednesday, the State Department said that earlier in the day, it had informed Congress of its approval of the potential sale of Volcano vehicle-launched anti-tank mine-laying systems and related equipment to Taipei.
It added that the arms would be sold to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, which is the island's diplomatic outpost in the US.
Northrop Grumman and Oshkosh Corporation are the prime contractors for the potential sale.
"This proposed sale serves US national, economic, and security interests by supporting the recipient's continuing efforts to modernize its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability," the statement said, claiming, "The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region."
The move is likely to draw China's anger, which has sovereignty over Chinese Taipei. Under the "one China" policy, almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty, meaning they would not establish direct diplomatic contact with the self-proclaimed government in Taipei.
Chinese Taipei's secessionist president Tsai Ing-wen has independence aspirations and views the island as a sovereign state, rejecting the "one China" principle. The US, though professing adherence to the principle, has long courted Taipei and sells weapons to the self-governed island in an attempted affront to Beijing.
In a statement, Taiwan's ministry of military affairs said that the potential sale would take effect in about a month and that the systems would help enhance the island's "asymmetric warfare" capacity to make its forces more agile.
"The Chinese Communist Party's frequent military activities near Taiwan have posted [sic] severe military threats to us," the ministry claimed, adding that the US military sales were the "cornerstone of maintaining regional stability and peace."
Washington's arms sale to Chinese Taipei proceeds under the terms of the so-called Taiwan Relations Act of 2022, and there is bipartisan support for providing the island with weapons.
Back in September, the administration of US President Joe Biden approved over $1.1 billion in arm sales to Chinese Taipei, the largest in his tenure, which included up to 60 anti-ship missiles and up to 100 air-to-air missiles.
Since 2017, the US has approved more than $20 billion in weapons sales to Taipei.
The latest development came after Biden signed into law a sweeping military bill that included the establishment of a military modernization program for Chinese Taipei to deter what the White House called Chinese aggression.
Beijing, which has repeatedly warned the US against official ties with Taipei, says the US contacts with island and the weapon sales to it are a violation of China's sovereignty.
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