THE US State Department has approved the possible sale of arms worth $2.2billion (£1.8billion) to Taiwan despite furious Chinese objections to the deal.
The sale will involve 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger missiles and the equipment required to operate them. The Defence Security Cooperation Agency told the Congress on Monday the possible sale would include mounted machine guns, ammunition, Hercules armoured vehicles and heavy equipment transport. The US recognised the Republic of China (ROC), the de facto government of Taiwan, until 1979 when it moved recognition to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), until last year relations between the two were informal and unofficial.
The original Republic of China was proclaimed in 1912, but after defeat in the Chinese Civil War, the Nationalists were forced to flee to Taiwan.
The ROC and PRC both claim to be the sole legitimate government of China.
The former represented China on the United Nations until 1971.
Earlier this year, Chinese President, Xi Jinping told the Taiwanese people to accept they “must and will be” reunited with China.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party is in the pro-independence camp but Ms Tsai believes the de facto independence that Taipei has meant a formal declaration of independence is unnecessary with it also likely to cross a red line for Beijing.
The ROC is recognised by 16 UN member states and maintains unofficial relations with a further 57 UN members, Britain maintains an office in Taipei and Taiwan has representative offices in London and Edinburgh.
Ms Tsai has said the request for arms from the US has come after increasing pressure from Beijing.
The Ministry of National Defence in Taipei confirmed the process of acquiring weapons was proceeding as expected.
The Taiwan Travel Act of 2018 passed in February last year allows for high-level officials from Washington and Taipei to make visits to the other.
While President Donald Trump was awaiting his official inauguration, he tweeted: “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!”
In confirming the call with Ms Tsai took place, then President-elect Mr Trump went against nearly four decades of US Foreign Policy.
China’s Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi dismissed the event as a “small trick” and re-affirmed the One China Policy.
This policy holds the view there is only one sovereign state under the name China, despite two using it.