US approves $95m Patriot weapons support for Taiwan

Potential sale is the third since Joe Biden became president in January 2021 and is likely to upset China.

A patriot missile system against a bright blue sky with a Taiwan airforce F16 in the background.
The US has approved services and equipment worth $95m for Taiwan's Patriot air defence system [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

The US State Department has approved the potential sale to Taiwan of equipment, training and other services worth $95m to support the island’s defence in what would be the third arms package since President Joe Biden took office a year ago.

The approval covers the training, planning, fielding, deployment, operation, maintenance and sustainment of the Patriot Air Defense System and associated equipment, the Pentagon said in a notification to Congress.

“This proposed sale serves US national, economic, and security interests by supporting the recipient’s continuing efforts to modernize its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability,” it said.

“The proposed sale will help to sustain the recipient’s missile density and ensure readiness for air operations. The recipient will use this capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen homeland defense.”

China claims Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy, as its own and has been stepping up pressure on the island ever since Tsai Ing-wen was first elected president in 2016. Beijing has not ruled out the use of force to take control of the territory and, in recent years, has conducted repeated air sorties into Taiwan’s air defence zone.

Taiwan’s presidential office noted this was the third arms sale announced since President Joe Biden took office and showed the “rock solid” nature of their relationship.

“Taiwan will continue to demonstrate its determination to defend itself, and continue to deepen cooperative partnerships with the United States and other like-minded countries,” spokesperson Xavier Chang said in a statement.

Although the US has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself and is Taiwan’s main source of weapons.

With the sale, the US is honouring its commitment to support Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act and the “Six Assurances,” Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement in which it expressed its “sincere gratitude” for the deal.

The approval does not mean a contract has been signed or that negotiations have concluded.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said it expected the deal to “become effective” within the month.

The Biden administration announced its first arms package – worth $750m and involving Howitzer artillery systems – in August 2021, and the second – worth $100m and also for the Patriot system – in February.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies