A long-time buyer of US weapons now sees itself as a possible supplier of military equipment. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday that the island could eventually supply military equipment to “Western democracies.”
President Tsai made the comments as Taiwan launched a new advanced warship. The new ship is a mine-laying vessel dubbed the “aircraft carrier killer,” as it is armed with anti-ship missiles. In November, Taiwan began producing its first domestically-made submarines.
“We have the determination and capability to complete the task of building our own ships, letting the world see our defense research and development energy,” President Tsai said on Tuesday.
“In the future, we may also become a supply source of related equipment and components in Western democracies, driving the upgrading of the defense industry,” she said.
Since the US severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979, Washington has continued to sell weapons to Taiwan to discourage China from invading. The Trump administration has continued the tradition of arming Taiwan and has pushed forward multiple weapons packages for Taipei over the past few months.
The Trump administration has taken steps to increase diplomatic ties with Taiwan by sending high-level officials to visit the island, breaking from US norms. On the economic front, the US and Taiwan announced in September a plan to work together on infrastructure projects, seen as an attempt to counter Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. There is also a bipartisan consensus in Congress that the US should seek a trade deal with Taiwan.
The incoming Biden administration is expected to continue increasing ties with Taiwan. Anthony Blinken, Joe Biden’s pick for secretary of state, favors more cooperation between Washington and Taipei. “Stronger economic ties with Taiwan also support our shared democratic values and our common commitment to regional peace and stability,” Blinken said in a tweet on August 28th.
After Biden was declared the winner of the November presidential election, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the US called Blinken to congratulate the long-time Biden aide on the victory. The envoy, Hsiao Bi-khim, told Blinken that she hopes close cooperation between the US and Taiwan will continue in the coming years.