The Biden administration approved a $500 million sale of equipment to boost F-16 fighter jet search and tracking capabilities to Taiwan as China mounts objections to successive American arms transfers, the State Department said Wednesday.
The proposed sale would enhance Taiwan’s ability to “meet current and future threats” and defend its airspace against China, which has taken to periodically conducting extensive military exercises near the independently-governed island, the State Department said in a statement. Taiwan said the tracking systems would bolster its defenses against China and announced nearly $3 billion in additional weapons spending for 2024, including for fighter jets, on Thursday, according to Reuters.
“This proposed sale serves U.S. national, economic, and security interests by supporting the recipient’s continuing efforts to modernize its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability,” the State Department said. It will “improve the recipient’s capability to meet current and future threats by contributing to the recipient’s abilities to defend its airspace, provide regional security, and increase interoperability with the United States through its F-16 program.”
The sale includes infrared search and tracking systems as well as other computer software and spare parts to support Taiwan’s growing fleet of the advanced fighter jets, according to the statement.
While the sale is smaller than previous transfers authorized for Taiwan, it could elicit a harsh response from China, according to The Associated Press.
When Taiwanese Vice President William Lai transited through the United States en route to Paraguay last week, China mounted large-scale military drills as a “serious warning” to what it terms separatist forces in Taiwan, Reuters reported. Chinese naval and air forces practiced “omnidirectional encirclement of the island,” the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command said in a statement, according to the outlet.
.@StateDept authorizes a proposed Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Taipei Economic & Cultural Representative Office @TECRO_USA of F-16 Infrared Search and Track (IRST) systems worth $500 million @StateDeptPM @USAsiaPacific#FMSUpdate – https://t.co/MAEtWjuyf0 pic.twitter.com/hzMsYQXpdj
— Political-Military Affairs, US Dept of State (@StateDeptPM) August 23, 2023
Hours before the proposed sale, Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-Wen pledged to strengthen Taiwan’s military after paying regards to a war memorial of the last time Taiwan and China battled, the AP reported.
As well as arms sales, the administration is also bolstering Taiwan’s military through other means.
In July, President Joe Biden directed the State Department and Department of defense to provide up to $345 million in weapons and defense equipment for Taiwan, as well as to train and educate the island’s forces. Congress authorized the president to arm Taiwan with up to $1.1 billion worth of military equipment pulled directly from U.S. stocks in 2023, but the July announcement appeared to be the first time the administration has utilized drawdown powers for Taiwan this year.
The Biden administration declined to specify what capabilities would be included in the package.
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