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US approves possible $2.2 billion arms sale to Taiwan amid tension with China

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Washington, United States Jul 09, 2019, 06.25 AM (IST)

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, the Pentagon said on Monday, despite Chinese criticism of the deal.

China's Foreign Ministry said last month when the possible sale was first reported that it was seriously concerned about US arms sales to self-ruled Taiwan, and it urged the United States to halt the sales to avoid harming bilateral ties.

The sale of the weapons requested by Taiwan, including 108 General Dynamics Corp Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles, would not alter the basic military balance in the region, the Pentagon's Defence Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.

DSCA notified Congress on Monday of the possible arms sale, which it said could also include mounted machine guns, ammunition, Hercules armoured vehicles for recovering inoperative tanks, heavy equipment transporters and related support.

Reuters reported last month that an informal notification of the proposed sale had been sent to the US Congress.

The United States is the main arms supplier to Taiwan, which China deems a renegade province. Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

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Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said in March that Washington was responding positively to Taipei's requests for new arms sales to bolster its defences in the face of pressure from China. The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide it with the means to defend itself.

Taiwan's Defence Ministry confirmed it had requested those weapons and that the request was proceeding normally.

The US commitment to providing Taiwan with the weapons to defend itself helps Taipei's military raise its combat abilities, consolidates the Taiwan-US security partnership and ensures Taiwan's security, the ministry said last month in a statement.