A group of US weapons makers attended the Taiwan-US Defense Industry Forum in Taipei on Wednesday and pledged to increase cooperation with Taiwan.
The event marks the first time since 2019 that the US arms industry sent a delegation to Taiwan and comes at a time of soaring tensions between the US and China over the island.
The forum was attended by 30 defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, and a former senior US Marines Corps officer, retired Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder.
“We want to be part of the self-defense capabilities of Taiwan,” Rudder said in a speech at the event. He called for closer cooperation between the US and Taiwanese militaries, saying the “endgame” is “joint interoperability.”
The US and Taiwan have taken significant steps recently to increase military ties, including the deployment of 200 US troops to Taiwan for training. The deployment marks the largest-known US military presence on the island since Washington severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979.
Taiwan is also looking to begin joint production of arms with American companies. Taiwanese contractors attended the forum and said they could work with the US on fighter jets and drones.
“When it comes to the development of the next-generation fighter, we look forward to the support from the US to build the jet ourselves,” said Hu Kai-hung, chairman of Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corp.
The steps the US and Taiwan have taken to increase military and diplomatic ties anger China, which has put Taiwan under more military pressure in response. Ahead of the forum, Beijing issued a strong warning against such cooperation.
“These ‘military-industrial complexes’ of the United States have always been keen to sell arms around the world, export wars and seek windfall profits,” said Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei. “The Democratic Progressive Party authorities’ practice of bringing wolves into the home is repugnant and will only bring a deep disaster to Taiwanese compatriots.”