Taiwan’s purchase of weapons from the United States is becoming a critical issue for China, as ties between the world’s two largest economies decline over a trade dispute and Europe is emerging as a challenger, a European analyst says.
Michal Thim, a Taiwan analyst with the Association for International Affairs in the Czech Republic, says the $330 million planned purchase of arms by Taiwan is providing Beijing another reason to forgo improving bilateral relations with Washington.
China has canceled a U.S. Navy warship visit to Hong Kong and talks with Pentagon officials.
The plan for the arms acquisition is smaller than a year ago. In June 2017 the United States agreed to sell a $1.4 billion arms package to Taiwan.
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The previous plan included heavyweight torpedoes for Taiwan’s submarine force, but the 2018 orders are primarily spare parts and logistics support for Taiwan’s fighter fleet, and part of the Cooperative Logistics Supply Support Arrangement.
But the sale contents are crucial to Taiwan’s air force, Thim writes, and come at a time when the United States is moving to arms sales on an annual basis, after a decade of accommodating Beijing’s interests. Taiwan also recently reached a deal with France to upgrade its Mirage 2000 fighter jets.
“Europe’s arms suppliers may find the situation ripe for taking a greater share in Taiwan’s defense projects. Their governments may very well give them the green light,” Thim writes.
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Upgrading Taiwan’s submarines is a project that began under current President Tsai Ing-wen. Taiwan is becoming more politically significant as the United States and Japan cooperate against Chinese policies at sea, Chinese-language news site Duowei news reported, following the announcement of arms purchases on Sept. 24.
The four submarines in Taiwan’s fleet are meant for training purposes, and other fighter jets including F-16s, are in need of upgrades, according to reports.