An arms package reportedly under consideration could involve more than one hundred M1 Abrams tanks and over 1,000 anti-tank weapons.
UNITED NATIONS – The U.S. is reportedly preparing a more than $2 billion arms sale to Taiwan in a move likely to provoke tensions with China amid an ongoing trade spat.
The arms sale likely involves modernizing the Taiwan’s ground defense by upgrading its Cold War-era tank fleet with more than 100 M1 Abrams tanks and hundreds of anti-tank weapons.
“It’s an unusual package.”
Robert Ross is a professor of political science at Boston College and an expert in Chinese security and U.S.-China relations.
“Of all the scenarios one might imagine the mainland carrying out toward Taiwan, a tank landing is not high on the list.”
The decision to buy tanks and anti-tank weapons could boil down to bureaucratic politics, with Taiwan’s army eager to go on a shopping spree after the air force and navy did so in recent years. Electoral politics could offer another explanation.
“It’s an election year in Taiwan, and the leader of Taiwan is facing a considerable number of problems. She cannot run on the economy because the economy is poor. She cannot run on social issues because she’s unpopular on those. So she’s running on nationalism. And what she’s running on is, ‘I’ll be tough on the mainland, I will never talk to them and I’m going to be part of the American security policy in East Asia, which is lining up against China.’ ”
China is responding angrily to the sale, regardless of the rationale behind it, but Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, thinks it could be an opportune time for President Trump to be pushing the envelope with his unusually vocal support for Taiwan.
“President Trump doesn’t seem to particularly care about offending the Chinese. They’re kind of running through an awful lot of their options right now by applying them to the trade issue. So it’s not like, ‘we could could affect the Americans by doing ‘X’ over this Taiwan arms trade, because they’ve already used the ‘X’ card over trade.”