The United States has surprised China again this week by approving a $600 million sale of MQ-9B drones to Taiwan. The Trump administration made another surprise move this week in the path of a possible Chinese invasion of the island nation.
These drones are compatible with an array of missile and sensor systems and will help the Taiwanese military to detect, deter, and defeat encroaching Chinese forces.
These drones will allow Taiwan to monitor an encroaching Chinese fleet or invasion beachhead without excessive risk to aircrews. This is an important concern in light of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy’s impressive air defense systems.
The drones would enable Taiwan to carry out missions that otherwise would be an almost sure suicide run against the PLA command nodes.
It’s not surprising that China reacted with outrage to the announcement.
The sale, a government spokesperson said, “brutally interferes in China’s internal affairs and seriously undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests.” Beijing warned that if the weapons were actually delivered, it will retaliate against U.S. interests (in what form is not clear).
For the U.S. this sale is good news. The economic benefit of this sale in helping to sustain U.S. jobs with the support of continuing benefits in terms of Taiwan’s long term maintenance needs. It is also a strategy on the U.S. part, to help aid Taiwan, which is a democracy and U.S. ally and economic partner that has the right to set its own national destiny.
With Taiwan steadily receiving threats from Xi Jinping’s regime, Taiwan needs foreign support. Xi and the ruling elite believe Taiwan is a breakaway province requiring submission under Beijing rule.
This drone sale exploits China’s insecurities without unleashing them.
These drones are just one element in an array of sales to Taiwan in the last month by the Trump administration. This includes the recent sale of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, radar systems, and upgraded F-16 fighter jets.
The drones force China to consider the risk that any invasion might actually fail. That risk-pressure approach is the key, here, playing as it does to Xi’s insecurities.
Regardless of what happens in the ongoing U.S. presidential election, this sale is in the best tradition of American global leadership. Supportive of democracy, predicated on defense against external aggression, and serving of the rule-of-law based international order.
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