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Taiwan set to receive US$2b in US arms

The US has tentatively approved the sale of US$2 billion in military hardware to Taiwan which includes 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks.

[TAIPEI] The United States has tentatively approved the sale of US$2 billion in military hardware to Taiwan, demonstrating support for its unofficial ally in a move likely to exacerbate deteriorating ties between Washington and Beijing.

The Defence Security Cooperation Agency, part of the US Defence Department, notified Congress of two proposed arms sales Monday. The first notification included 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks, as well as Hercules armored vehicles and heavy equipment transporters. The second included more than US$220 million in Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

The tentative approvals come as relations between the United States and China are already being tested by a trade war and the decoupling of technology supply chains. The armaments would provide Taiwan with greater deterrence capabilities against the growing military threat from China, experts said.

"These tanks and missiles will provide the Taiwan army with a modern capability to deter and complicate the operational planning of the People's Liberation Army forces that coerce and threaten Taiwan," Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, said in a statement Monday. "They will also offer new opportunities to engage in cooperation with the United States in both the deployment and operations phases."

US lawmakers have 30 days to object to the sale, but they are considered unlikely to do so. The approvals come as Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen, prepares for a trip this week to North America, a visit that could further anger Beijing. The Taiwanese government said her first stop would be New York.

At a regularly scheduled news briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, Geng Shuang, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, expressed opposition to the sales, saying they could harm relations between China and the United States.

Taiwan's deputy foreign minister, Miguel Tsao, announced July 1 that Ms Tsai would spend two nights in the United States before and after visiting the Caribbean countries of St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, and Haiti from Thursday to July 22.

In addition to the recently approved arms packages, Taiwan in late February also requested 66 F-16V fighter jets from the United States. And in April, Washington approved a US$500 million package that included F-16 parts and training.