$2.2 billion Taiwan-U.S. arms deal angers China, but sale more symbolic than signal of strength

By Jesse Johnson |

Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, conducts table six tank crew qualification Feb. 4, 2019, Orchard Combat Training Center. The Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers are preparation for the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team’s upcoming rotation at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., later this year.

The U.S. State Department’s approval of a possible sale to Taiwan of “big ticket” weapons at an estimated value of $2.2 billion is likely to be seen as a symbolic move that makes sense for both Taipei and Washington as they grapple with an increasingly assertive China.

The sale of the weapons requested by Taiwan, including 108 General Dynamics Corp. M1A2T Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles, “will not alter the basic military balance in the region,” the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement released Monday.

The DSCA notified U.S. Congress the same day of the impending arms sale, which it said could also include mounted machine guns, ammunition, Hercules armored vehicles for recovering inoperative tanks, heavy equipment transporters, as well as related support.

The proposed tank sale “will contribute to the modernization of the recipient’s main battle tank fleet, enhancing its ability to meet current and future regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense,” the DSCA said.

And the missiles would “support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security and defensive capability of the recipient, an important force for political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region,” it added.

In terms of troop numbers and firepower, Taiwan would be a massive underdog in any war with China, with much of its equipment in dire need of upgrades. In May, the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency warned in a report that Taiwan’s traditional military advantages over Beijing in the event of a cross-strait conflict were eroding in the face of China’s military modernization efforts.

Its current tank force consists of around 1,000 CM 11 Brave Tiger and M60A3 tanks, technology that is increasingly obsolete. The Abrams tanks and anti-aircraft missiles can be quickly moved by soldiers in the field, significantly boosting Taiwan’s ability to destroy Chinese armor and warplanes in the event of an invasion.

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About Cholo Brooks 15352 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.