US approves $1 billion arms sale to Taiwan

·2-min read

The US State Department has approved a potential billion-dollar sale of military equipment to Taiwan, including 60 anti-ship missiles and 100 air-to-air missiles, amid heightened tensions with China.

The $US1.1 billion ($A1.6 billion) package was announced on Friday in the wake of China's aggressive military drills around Taiwan following a visit to the island last month by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking US official to travel to Taipei in years.

The sale includes Sidewinder missiles, which can be used for air-to-air and surface-attack missions, at a cost of some $US85.6 million ($A125.2 million), Harpoon anti-ship missiles at an estimated $US355 million ($A519 million) cost and support for Taiwan's surveillance radar program for an estimated $US665.4 million ($A973.2 million), the Pentagon's Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said.

Liu Pengyu, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said in a statement the possible arms sale "severely jeopardises China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait".

"China will resolutely take legitimate and necessary counter-measures in light of the development of the situation," he said.

President Joe Biden's administration said the package has been under consideration for some time and was developed in consultation with Taiwan and US lawmakers.

"As the PRC continues to increase pressure on Taiwan - including through heightened military air and maritime presence around Taiwan - and engages in attempts to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, we're providing Taiwan with what it needs to maintain its self-defence capabilities," Laura Rosenberger, White House senior director for China and Taiwan, said in a statement.

Reuters reported last month that the Biden administration was planning new equipment for Taiwan but that the equipment would sustain Taiwan's current military systems and fulfil existing orders, not offer new capabilities, despite the heightened tensions that followed Pelosi's visit.

The Pentagon said the equipment and support announced on Friday would not alter the basic military balance in the region. US officials said they did not reflect any change in policy toward Taiwan.

Taiwan's defence ministry expressed its thanks, adding that China's recent "provocative" activities represented a serious threat and the arms sale would help it face China's military pressure.

"At the same time, it also demonstrates that it will help our country strengthen its overall defence capabilities and jointly maintain the security and peace of the Taiwan Strait and the Indo-Pacific region," the ministry said in a statement.