The United States has cleared the possible sale of $619 million worth of new weapons to Taiwan, including missiles for its F-16 fleet, as the island reported a second day of large-scale Chinese air force intrusions in the area.
The arms sales are likely to worsen already difficult relations between Washington and Beijing, which has frequently requested the cessation of such transfers, perceiving them as inappropriate backing for democratically controlled Taiwan, which it claims as its own territory.
The Pentagon said on Wednesday that the US State Department has cleared the potential sale of arms and equipment to Taiwan, including 200 anti-aircraft Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and 100 land-based radar-destroying AGM-88B HARM missiles.
“The proposed sale will contribute to the recipient’s ability to provide for the protection of its airspace, regional security, and interoperability with the United States,” the statement reads.
The missiles, according to Taiwan’s defense ministry, will assist “effectively defend the airspace against threats and provocations from the Communist military” and reinforce defense stocks.
Raytheon Technology and Lockheed Martin are the primary contractors, the document continued. China has sanctioned both firms for selling arms to Taiwan.
Since roughly three years ago, Taiwan has complained of increased Chinese military actions near the island as Beijing strives to assert its sovereignty claims.
Taiwan reported a second day of large-scale Chinese air force breaches within its air defense identification zone on Thursday, with its defense ministry stating that 21 Chinese aircraft had been sighted in the last 24 hours.
China has stated that its actions in the region are justifiable as it intends to maintain its territorial integrity and warn the United States against “colluding” with Taiwan, despite the outrage this generates in Taipei.
According to a map issued by Taiwan’s defense ministry, the aircraft, consisting of 17 J-10 fighters and four J-16 fighters, had entered the southwest corner of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.
The J-10s, an earlier model that entered service two decades ago, went closer to the Chinese shore than Taiwan’s, while the J-16s, a much newer and more advanced fighter, flew northeast of the Pratas Islands, which are controlled by Taiwan.
The thinly protected Pratas are strategically placed at the head of the South China Sea, and numerous Chinese reconnaissance flights take place there.
The ministry noted that Taiwan’s forces observed the situation, including sending its own planes into the air, as is typical for its response to such Chinese incursions.
Wednesday, the ministry said that 19 Chinese aircraft were flying within Taiwan’s air defense zone.
None of the aircraft crossed the sensitive median line of the Taiwan Strait, which has served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides, but which China’s air force has flown over nearly every day since performing war games near Taiwan in August.
Taiwan last reported a large number of Chinese aircraft breaching the middle line on Friday, when ten aircraft were involved.
China has not commented on recent events in Taiwan’s vicinity. China announced in January that it had conducted military exercises near the island to “resolutely resist the provocative actions of external powers and separatist forces demanding Taiwan independence.”
There have been no guns fired, and the Chinese aircraft were flying in Taiwan’s ADIZ, not its territorial airspace.
The ADIZ is a larger area that Taiwan patrols and monitors, giving it more time to respond to threats.
Taiwan’s administration has frequently suggested discussions with China, but has also stated that the island will defend itself if invaded and that only the Taiwanese people can choose the island’s future.
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