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US approves sale of arms, drones to Taiwan

June 19, 2024

The US government has approved the future transfer of equipment worth more than $300 million. Though not unexpected, the move is liable to rile China, which claims Taiwan as its territory.

Undated handout image of a Switchblade drone, launching with a soldier stood with his back to the camera in the foreground of the shot. Promotional image from AeroVironment, Inc.
'Switchblade' drones made up part of the latest package of US exports to TaiwanImage: abaca/picture alliance

The US State Department and Pentagon said on Tuesday that the government had approved the sale of various military goods, including drones and related equipment, worth an estimated $360 million (roughly €335 million) to Taiwan

The sale "will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region," the Pentagon said. 

The sale includes Switchblade anti-personnel and anti-armor loitering munitions (pictured at the top of the story) and ALTIUS 600M-V drones and related equipment.

Loitering munitions are so called because of their suitability to wait and circle near a target before attacking at a strategic moment.

Taiwan's Defense Ministry expressed its thanks, particularly for US efforts to increase the volume of shipments, having complained of delayed deliveries in the recent past.

Regular exports to Taiwan, to China's dissatisfaction

The US is a major military exporter and donor to Taiwan. As such, the deal is not unusual, but China is, nevertheless, likely to frown on the potential sale of US weapons. China claims Taiwan as its own

The US walks a fine line on its China-Taiwan policy. On the one hand, the US adheres to the "One China" stance Bejiing demands from all its trading partners that a country only maintains diplomatic ties with China, not also Taiwan. 

On the other, an act of Congress also obliges the US government to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself and its sovereignty. This requirement has become all the more problematic in recent decades as China's military swelled to a size that, on paper, rivals even that of the US and vastly outguns forces on the democratic island of Taiwan.

The State Department said the sale announced on Tuesday "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."

Tensions rise with China over US aid bill for Taiwan

msh/sms (AP, Reuters)