US Ignores Chinese Warnings, Unveils $2 Billion Weapons Deal to Taiwan

Chinese officials warn sales endanger the 'One China' policy

Earlier in the week, Chinese officials were warning the US against approving large weapons deals to Taiwan, warning the US actions are threatening regional stability and that China might have no choice but to act to defend their claims on Taiwan.

This is the Trump Administration we are talking about, however, and these are billions of dollars in weapons sales, so unsurprisingly Taiwanese officials are confirming that the US has reached the deal with them. The sale includes 100 M1A1 battle tanks, along with large numbers of anti-tank and surface-to-air Stinger missiles.

Legally speaking, the Taiwan Relation Act obliges the US to provide arms and material to support the Taiwanese military. At the same time, the US has a “One China” policy, and recognizes China, not Taiwan, as that one.

Taiwan does not legally consider itself independent from China, and China certainly doesn’t see it that way either, viewing a reunification as an inevitability down the road. Such large US sales, however, risk shifting the balance of power.

The concern there for China is that if Taiwan considers its military to be substantially capable of defending itself against a Chinese invasion, they may rethink their long-standing avoidance of mentioning formal independence, believing they can make such a declaration stick.

Even before taking office, President Trump signaled such a potential conflict, saying that he thought “One China” policy should be conditional on trade deals. With the US and China locked in a trade war, he likely considers the sales to be yet more leverage brought to bear against the Chinese.

US arms sales to Taiwan have historically been a source of tensions with China. Generally this dies down after awhile, though in this case tensions between the US and China were already high, and the deal is just making things that much worse.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.