The Trump administration has approved selling Taiwan $1.8 billion in advanced weaponry.  This includes air-to-ground missiles, according to notices to Congress on Wednesday.  

The package includes 135 Boeing-made air-to-ground cruise missiles called Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response missiles and related equipment, with an estimated value of $1.008 billion, according to a notice from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.  The missiles are made by Boeing.

The administration also approved selling Taiwan 11 Lockheed Martin-made truck-mounted rocket launchers called High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and related equipment, as well as six MS-110 reconnaissance pods that can be attached to Taiwan’s fighter jets.  The rocket launcher package is estimated to cost $436.1 million, while the sensor pod package is valued at $367.2 million, according to the notices.

This deal is a move that may enrage China and further exacerbate tensions between Washington and Beijing that are already heated over issues such as trade, Tibet, Hong Kong, and the South China Sea.  China still claims Taiwan as part of its territory and objects whenever the United States announces a new arms sale there. 

Beijing has also been stepping up military activity around the island recently, amid several high-ranking visit to Taiwan from Trump administration officials, including Under Secretary of State Keith Krach and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

“This proposed sale serves U.S. national, economic, and security interests by supporting the recipient’s continuing efforts to modernize its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability,” all three notices said.  “The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, economic and progress in the region.”  The notices also said the arms sales “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

The Trump administration is advancing with the weapons sales with just two weeks to go before the U.S. presidential election, in which both President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden have sought to portray themselves as tough on China. 

U.S.-China relations are also near their lowest point as Trump and his Republican allies seek to deflect blame for the coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the United States onto China, where the first cases of the virus were detected in late 2019.

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