Why China is afraid of US Abrams tanks to be delivered to Taiwan
In a move that is unlikely to sit well with China, the US State Department has approved a $2 billion dollar arms deal with Taiwan involving 108 General Dynamics Corp M1A2T Abrams tanks.
US Army Infantry Battalion's M1 Abrams tanks
The US deal involves the sale of 108 M-1 Abrams tanks and 250 stinger missiles weapons that were specifically requested by Taiwan.
According to Pentagon’s defence security cooperation agency, the deal will not impact the military balance of the region and beyond the two major weapons ammunition, armoured vehicles and machine guns are also part of the deal.
Taiwan renegade province
The US State Department has approved the possible sale to Taiwan of M1A2T Abrams tanks, Stinger missiles and related equipment at an estimated value of $2.2 billion despite Chinese criticism of the deal.
China had asked the US to not go ahead with the deal and called it an extremely sensitive and damaging decision.
China, of course, claims Taiwan to be its renegade province and has never ruled out military force in reclaiming it.
US' more than 15 billion dollars sale to Taiwan
The foreign ministry also asked the US to abide by the One-China policy, and not interfere in its affairs. This is not the first instance of military dealings between the US and Taiwan. The US is Taiwan's largest supplier of military equipment, something that has always irked China.
Since 2010, the US has sold more than 15 billion dollars worth of arms to Taiwan. The military balance between Taiwan and China has become lopsided with the latter's modernisation drive and this has made Taiwan more dependent on the United States for its military needs.
US General Creighton Abrams
The iconic tanks named after US General Creighton Abrams who fought in the Vietnam war has a particular resonance in US military history.
Creighton Williams who was the chief of US Army was credited with strengthening the US forces on the ground in Vietnam which the country lost disastrously amid political and military confusion.
The tanks were named M1 Abrams after the great general who passed away in 1974, aged 59.
Abrams in Gulf War-I
The "killer" tanks built in the image of the World War-II German Leopard tanks was first seen in action during Gulf War-I in 1990 under President Bush after Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.
The tanks were used extensively during Operation Desert Storm with over 1,000 M1A1 "Heavy Armor" in operation.
After extensive trials in late 1970, the tanks were brought into production in 1980. The first M1A1 model was delivered in 1985 and in the late 1990s the US Army began upgrading the tanks further.
Incidentally, President Trump during the 4th July Independence Day celebrations this year had called the tanks to be parked in Washington as part of the display.
'M1A2 tanks will help greatly to increase defensive capabilities'
Taiwan would be massively outgunned in terms of troop numbers and firepower in any conflict with China and has sought to upgrade much of its increasingly obsolete military equipment, especially its aging Air Force.
"Taiwan stands in the frontline of China's ambitious expansion and faces enormous threats and pressure from Beijing," the Taiwanese foreign ministry said in a statement.
"This arms sale of M1A2 tanks and various missiles will help greatly to increase our defensive capabilities."
Boosting Taiwan's military capability
Abrams tanks and Stinger missiles which are portable and can be quickly moved by soldiers in the field would significantly increase Taiwan's ability to counter Chinese armour and warplanes in the event of an invasion.
"The M1A2 tanks are very reliable and will become an essential part of our ground defence" because of their manoeuvrability, Lt. Gen. Yang Hai-ming of the Taiwanese army told reporters.
"Having the M1A2 to replace our older tanks will quickly and effectively boost our defence capability."