01:26 GMT02 December 2020
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    The US State Department approved on Wednesday the sale of roughly $1 billion in long-range cruise missiles and $436 million in rocket artillery vehicles to Taiwan, just the latest incident of Washington supplying advanced weaponry to a government China considers to be a province in rebellion.

    The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Pentagon's office that oversees US military assistance to other nations, announced on Wednesday the State Department had approved sale of $1.008 billion worth of AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) and related equipment to the Republic of China, the official name of the government in Taipei, Taiwan.

    According to the announcement, the Taiwanese envoy to Washington requested 135 SLAM-ER cruise missiles as well as four telemetry missiles for test-firing and 12 Captive Air Training Missiles, used to simulate the missile onboard aircraft in training.

    The SLAM-ER is a version of the Harpoon anti-ship missiles that has been modified to strike land targets and has an extended range of 170 miles - long enough to reach across the Taiwan Strait and strike the Chinese mainland.

    Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Michael Martin, left,, and Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Cecilia Duran, both assigned to the Pro's Nest of Patrol Squadron (VP) 30, load an AGM-84K SLAM-ER missile on a P-8A Poseidon in preparation for a conventional weapons technical proficiency inspection.
    In a separate announcement, the DSCA revealed the State Department had approved sale of 11 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) M142 launchers and related equipment to Taiwan for $436 million. The deal includes 64 Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) for the vehicles to fire and 54 training pods.

    The deal is just the latest sale in advanced weapons by Washington to Taipei. Since US President Donald Trump took office four years ago, the US has supplied Taiwan with $15 billion in weapons. In August, the US finalized the largest single deal, an $8 billion sale of 66 F-16V "Viper" advanced fighter jets, and floated selling Taipei MQ-9B Reaper drones as well. It has previously supplied Taipei with torpedoes, air defense systems, and fighter aircraft.

    US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS)
    © CC0
    US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS)

    The New York Times reported on September 17, citing officials familiar with the proposals, that another massive weapons sale was in the works that included SLAM-ER missiles. The missiles were reported to be part of a massive $7 billion sale that would also include the Reaper drones and other weaponry such as anti-submarine mines.

    According to Defense News, a third sale is likely to be approved soon that would supply Taiwan's F-16s with advanced external sensor pods.

    Beijing views Taiwan as a province in rebellion, the People's Republic of China having been victorious in the civil war and enjoying the subsequent acknowledgment by all but a handful of the world's nations as being the sole legitimate representative of the Chinese people. Accordingly, US aid to Taiwan, which travels through informal back channels, is seen as meddling in China's internal affairs.

    “The Taiwan question concerns China's sovereignty, territorial integrity and core interests," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in August. "China has firm resolve in upholding its sovereignty and security. We urge the US to earnestly abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués and stop arms sales to and military ties with Taiwan, lest it should gravely harm China-US relations and cross-strait peace and stability."

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    Tags:
    HIMARS, cruise missiles, arms deal, U.S. Department of State, Taiwan1
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