Taiwan Confirms It’s Pursuing Purchase of Over $2 Billion of US Missiles, Tanks

By Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a Master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
June 6, 2019 Updated: June 6, 2019

TAIPEI, Taiwan—The Taiwanese government has confirmed the validity of a Reuters report about a proposed U.S. arms deal with the island.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, in a press release on June 6, confirmed the Reuters story about a proposed sale of U.S. battle tanks and missiles made by U.S. defense companies General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin.

The United States plans to sell 108 General Dynamics M1A2 Abrams tanks, 1,240 Raytheon BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles, 409 Raytheon-Lockheed Martin FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles, and 250 Raytheon FIM-92 stinger surface-to-air missiles, according to the June 5 Reuters report.

The Taiwanese defense ministry stated that it has begun the formal protocol to buy the weapons, by submitting letters of requests (LORs) to the U.S. government. It added that the transaction is moving forward on schedule.

The U.S. government will now need to approve the LORs before it issues the Taiwanese government letters of offer and acceptances (LOAs), which would provide details of the terms of the purchase. Taipei would then review the LOAs and send them back to the United States.

Different U.S. government branches would have to review the potential sale before U.S. Congress is notified of the details, according to Taiwanese news site Focus Taiwan. News of a successful sale would then be made public by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency under the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Reuters report, citing unnamed sources, said the cost of the 108 tanks would be about $2 billion, and while the total price of the missiles would add up to about $650 million.

The ministry’s statement said the arms procurement is in line with the U.S. Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and the Six Assurances resolution, through which Washington is committed to providing defense equipment to strengthen Taiwan’s military, as well as the peace and security of Taiwan and nearby regions.

The TRA was signed into law by then-President Jimmy Carter in April 1979, months after Washington broke off formal diplomatic ties with the island and recognized Beijing.

Since then, Washington has maintained a nondiplomatic relationship based on the TRA and continues to sell arms to the island for self-defense, particularly against China, which has never renounced the use of force to unite Taiwan with the mainland. China considers the island part of its territory despite it being a de-facto independent country with a democratically-elected government, and its own currency, legal system, and military.

In 1982, then-President Ronald Reagan issued the Six Assurances, which included a pledge to not set a date for ending weapon sales to the island, and that the United States would not try to revise the TRA. The six pledges became a Congressional resolution in 2016.

As with past U.S. arms sales, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang, in a daily press conference on June 6, denounced the U.S. government’s decision to sell the weapons to Taiwan.

Geng stated that the United States needed to stop selling arms or risk endangering peace in the Taiwan Straits.

Andrew Lee, spokesperson for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that he didn’t have further information regarding the arms sale, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

However, Lee added that Washington and Taipei are enjoying a great relationship, as there has already been three U.S. arms sales to Taiwan since Donald Trump became president.

Under President Barack Obama, the United States had made four arms sales during his entire eight years in office.

The first of the three sales took place in June 2017, a total of $1.42 billion in U.S. arms, which included technical support for early warning radar, anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes, and missile components, according to the Associated Press.

Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a Master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.