On Wednesday, the State Department approved an arms sale to Taiwan for howitzers and related equipment worth an estimated $750 million. It is the first weapons deal for Taipei approved by the Biden administration and comes against the backdrop of heightened tensions between the US and China.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the deal includes 40 self-propelled howitzers, several other armored vehicles, five mounted .50 caliber machine guns, and 1,698 kits that can covert standard projectiles into precision-guided munitions.
The State Department notified Congress of the sale, which starts the congressional review period. The primary contractor for the deal is BAE Systems, which will now negotiate the details of the contract with Taiwan.
The US has been arming Taiwan since Washington severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979. In 2020, the US moved forward $5.1 billion in arms sales for the island. The US has also taken steps in recent years to strengthen diplomatic relations with Taipei, angering Beijing. Both the Trump administration and the Biden administration eased restrictions on US contacts with Taiwanese officials.
On top of the warming diplomatic ties, the US is also stepping up military activity near Taiwan. Since Biden came into office, the US has sailed warships through the Taiwan Strait seven times, keeping up the transits at a monthly rate. A US warship steamed through the sensitive waterway 13 times in 2020, a record high.