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White House ready to sell rocket launcher, missiles to Taiwan: sources

In the emailed statement, an embassy representative said: “China consistently and firmly opposes US arms sales to Taiwan and has firm resolve in upholding its sovereignty and security.”

Leaders of the US Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees were notified that three of the planned weapons sales had been approved by the US State Department which oversees Foreign Military Sales, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Members of the Taiwan Special Forces perform during the National Day celebrations in Taipei.

Members of the Taiwan Special Forces perform during the National Day celebrations in Taipei.Credit:AP

The informal notifications were for a truck-based rocket launcher made by Lockheed Martin called High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), long-range air-to-ground missiles made by Boeing called SLAM-ER, and external sensor pods for F-16 jets that allow the real-time transmission of imagery and data from the aircraft back to ground stations.

Notifications for the sale of other weapons systems, including large, sophisticated aerial drones, land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles and underwater mines, to deter amphibious landings, have yet to reach Capitol Hill, but these were expected soon, the sources said.

A State Department spokesman said: “As a matter of policy, the United States does not confirm or comment on proposed defence sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress.”

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The US Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees have the right to review, and block, weapons sales under an informal review process before the State Department sends its formal notification to the legislative branch.

Congress members, who are generally wary of what they perceive as Chinese aggression and supportive of Taiwan, were not expected to object to the sales.

Taiwan’s representative office in Washington said it had no comment. Taiwan’s Defence Ministry declined to comment.

News that new arms sales were moving forward came after senior US officials last week repeated calls for Taiwan to spend more on its own defence and to carry out military reforms to make clear to China the risks of attempting to invade.

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It comes at a time when China has significantly stepped up military activity near Taiwan and as US-China relations have plunged to the lowest point in decades as the US election nears. President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, have both sought to appear tough in their approach to Beijing.

Speaking on Wednesday, the US national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, warned against any attempt to retake Taiwan by force, saying amphibious landings were notoriously difficult and there was a lot of ambiguity about how the United States would respond.

The United States is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it has not made clear whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack, something that would likely lead to a much broader conflict with Beijing.

O’Brien said Taiwan needed to invest in capabilities including more coastal defence cruise missiles, naval mines, fast-attack craft, mobile artillery and advanced surveillance assets.

Reuters

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