| 23 September 2021, Thursday |

Pentagon says US has approved potential sales of howitzers to Taiwan

In a deal valued at up to $750 million, the US State Department approved the potential sale of 40 155mm M109A6 Medium Self-Propelled Howitzer artillery systems to Taiwan, according to the Pentagon.

This comes after a series of arms sales last year that included drones and coastal missile defenses meant to upgrade the island’s capabilities and discourage a Chinese invasion.

The Biden administration has approved other direct commercial sales of arms to Taiwan since taking office.

The Pentagon said that the package would include the howitzers, 1,698 precision guidance kits for munitions, spares, training, ground stations, and upgrades for Taiwan’s previous generation of howitzers.

Congress was notified by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency of the possible sale on Wednesday.

Taiwan’s defense ministry expressed “sincere gratitude” to the US government in a statement on Thursday, saying the sales would help its ground forces increase their “capacity for speedy reaction and fire support”.

The ministry called the continuous arms support by the United States a “basis for maintaining regional stability.”

Like most nations, the US has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is required by law to provide the Chinese-claimed island with the means to defend itself and is its most important international backer, to Beijing’s anger.

Beijing claims Taiwan and has been ramping up pressure, including with a record 28 aircraft incursions reported Tuesday, months after it clamped down on freedoms in Hong Kong.

Despite approval by the State Department, the notification does not indicate that a contract has been signed or that negotiations have concluded.

The Pentagon said BAE Systems Plc was the prime contractor for the weapons.

The Taiwan Relations Act, passed by Congress when the United States shifted recognition, requires the United States to provide Taipei with weapons for its self-defense.

Biden has moved ahead with former president Donald Trump’s more outspoken approach on Taiwan, including pushing for its inclusion in international bodies.

The Biden administration said Thursday it was resuming trade talks with Taiwan that had been on hiatus since Barack Obama’s administration.

The Senate last week separately passed a major package on investment in innovation whose provisions include lifting a ban on displays of Taiwan’s flag and the wearing of Taiwanese uniforms during meetings in Washington.