The annual US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference began on Monday and will continue on Tuesday. During the event, which is being held virtually, Taiwanese military officials are expected to brief the US on what weaponry the island is seeking in the face of increased tensions with mainland China.
Washington severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979, but the US has supplied the island with weapons ever since. The US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference began in 2002 and is a symbol of the military cooperation between Taipei and Washington.
The Trump administration has taken significant steps to strengthen ties with Taiwan. In 2018, President Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act into law, a bill that paved the way for high-level US visits to the island.
In August, US Health Secretary Alex Azar visited Taiwan, making him the highest-level US official to travel to the island since 1979. Azar’s visit was followed by one from US Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach in September. China responded to these visits with increased military flights near Taiwan’s airspace.
The Trump administration has continued the tradition of US arms sales to Taiwan. Recent reports indicate a major sale is on the horizon that could involve up to seven types of weapons systems. It is likely this potential sale will be discussed at the conference.
Washington and Taipei are also cooperating on economic endeavors. Last week, the US and Taiwan announced a plan to work together on infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific and in Latin America. Congress is pressuring President Trump’s top trade negotiator to strike a trade deal with Taiwan.