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US announces major arms deal with Taiwan

Despite Chinese ire, the US and Taiwan are close to inking a major weapons deal. The agreement would see US warships and missiles sent to Taipei.

The Obama administration presented a proposal for a $1.8 billion arms deal with Taiwan on Wednesday in a move angrily slammed by Beijing. The huge contract for warships, missiles, and assault vehicles now has 30 days to be approved by Congress.

Announcing the plan to the US legislature, State Department official David McKeeby called it a "defensive arms sales package" of anti-tank missiles, amphibious assault vehicles, and two Perry-class frigates.

Mainland China, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway Chinese territory, said ahead of the sale that it "firmly opposes sales of weapons, military hardware or technology to Taiwan by any country in any form or under any pretext."

Tensions between the two have waned under the administration of current Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou, but Beijing continues to hold the possibility of military retaliation over Taipei's head should it attempt to formally declare independence.

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Nothing new, US insists

But State Department spokesman John Kirby said the sale was nothing new for US policy, with precedent going all the way back to the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

"And because we are being consistent, there's no other message that needs to be taken away from this, other than we take seriously our commitment to the defense needs of Taiwan."

Indeed, the US-Taiwan Business Council, while welcoming the move, was unhappy that it had taken over four years since the last such sale to secure a new deal.

"While China has deployed new fighters, submarines, and missiles during the last four years, the US has consistently refused to consider providing Taiwan access to similar platforms, or even aiding their indigenous development," wrote group president Rupert Hammond-Chambers in a statement.

es/bw (AP, AFP)

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