The United States plans to sell Taiwan $1.42bn in arms, the first such sale under the administration of President Donald Trump and a move sure to anger China, whose help the president has been seeking to rein in North Korea.
The sale, which requires congressional approval, would be the first to Taiwan under Trump and the first since a $1.83bn sale that former President Barack Obama announced in December 2015, to China’s dismay.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Thursday that the administration had told Congress of the seven proposed sales.
Politicians, who are generally strongly supportive of such sales, have 30 days to object. The US is legally obliged to sell weapons to Taiwan for its self-defence.
“It’s now valued about $1.42 billion,” said Nauert before adding that the approvals did not violate the Taiwan Relations Act that governs US contacts with the island.
“It shows, we believe, our support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defence policy. There’s no change, I should point out, to our ‘one-China policy’.”
The State Department said the package included technical support for early-warning radar, high-speed anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes and missile components.
In a strong sign of congressional support, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee welcomed what he called the “long-overdue” arms sale.
“Sales of defensive weapons, based on Taiwan’s needs, are a key provision of our commitments as laid out by the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances,” said Ed Royce, referring to legislation and informal guidelines that steer US relations with Taiwan.
The previous package, under Obama, included two Navy frigates in addition to anti-tank missiles and amphibious attack vehicles.
China’s ambassador to Washington said the arms sales will undermine bilateral relations and run counter to the spirit of the Florida summit between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April.
“All these actions will certainly undermine the mutual confidence between the two sides and run counter to the spirit of the Mar-a-Lago summit,” Ambassador Cui Tiankai told reporters at an embassy reception in Washington, DC.
In March, US officials said the administration was crafting a big arms sale to Taiwan. But such talk died down as Trump sought to persuade Beijing to do more to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, an increasing threat to the US.
Earlier on Thursday, China responded angrily and said it had protested to Washington after a US Senate committee approved a bill calling for the resumption of port visits to Taiwan by the US Navy for the first time since the US adopted a one-China policy in 1979.
US officials told Reuters news agency this week that Trump – who alarmed Beijing after assuming office by breaking with decades of precedent and talking to Taiwan’s president – was becoming increasingly frustrated with China over its inaction on North Korea and trade.
Trump plans to meet President Xi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany next week, US National Security Adviser HR McMaster told reporters.