The Biden administration has approved an estimated $619 million potential arms sale to Taiwan, including hundreds of missiles for F-16 fighter jets, in a move that will likely further inflame already heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The administration formally notified Congress on Wednesday of the proposed sales of F-16 munitions and related equipment.
A State Department official said the potential sale is “consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act and our longstanding One-China policy,” wherein “the United States makes available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to enable it to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.”
The official noted Taiwan will use its own funds for the purchase.
“The United States’ support to Taiwan and steps Taiwan takes to enhance its self-defense capabilities contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region,” the official said.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said in a statement that “the Air Force has full combat capabilities in the two types of missiles that the United States agreed to sell this time,” adding: “Besides allowing us to effectively defend our airspace against provocations from the communist military, it also helps us stock weapons and boost our defensive resilience.”
“The provision of defensive weapons to our country is the basis for preserving regional peace, and the Ministry of National Defense expresses our sincere gratitude to the United States,” the statement continued.
The single-engine F-16 fighters would be at the heart of Taiwan’s defense in the event of any air attack from China.
The Chinese Communist Party claims Taiwan, a democratically ruled island of 24 million people, as part of its sovereign territory despite never having controlled it.
Beijing sends military aircraft and ships into the Taiwan Strait on a daily basis as it keeps up military pressure on the island.
Taiwan’s air force has been upgrading older F-16A/B fighter jets, originally acquired in the 1990s, to the F-16V, or Viper, jets, equipping them with advanced radar systems and new mission computers, the official Central News Agency (CNA) reported in 2021. It planned to upgrade 141 fighters to the newer version by this year, the 2021 report said.
Taiwan has also purchased 66 new F-16Vs from manufacturer Lockheed Martin in the United States, and delivery of those was expected to start this year, CNA reported in 2021.
A news release from the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency on Wednesday said the defense contractors for the munitions and equipment will be Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.
According to the release, the munitions include: 100 AGM-88B High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles; 23 HARM training missiles; 200 AIM-120C-8 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles; 4 AIM-120C-8 AMRAAM Guidance Sections; and 26 LAU-129 multi-purpose launchers.
“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. The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region,” the release stated.
This story has been updated with additional details.