Taiwan confirms request for US tanks, air defense systems

Taiwan confirmed yesterday it has asked to purchase more than 100 tanks from the U.S., along with air defense and anti- tank missile systems in a major potential arms sale that drew immediate protest from China.

A Defense Ministry statement said it has submitted a letter of request for 108 cutting-edge M1A2 Abrams tanks, 1,240 TOW anti-armor missiles, 409 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 250 Stinger man-portable air defense systems.

The request is proceeding “as normal,” it said. It wasn’t clear when the official request had been issued, after which the U.S. has 120 days to respond.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that China firmly opposes U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

“This position is consistent and clear,” he said at the ministry’s daily briefing. “We urge the U.S. to fully understand the high sensitivity and serious harm of the issue of arms sales to Taiwan and abide by the one-China principle.”

China considers self-governing Taiwan part of its territory, to be brought under its control by force if necessary. It says U.S. arms sales to the island constitute both interference in its internal affairs and a betrayal of earlier commitments made by Washington to Beijing.

The U.S. is the main supplier of weapons to Taiwan, and earlier reports have said Taiwan is also seeking 66 F-16 fighter jets in the most advanced “V’’ configuration.

President Tsai Ing-wen said in March that Taiwan was seeking tanks and jet fighters, but didn’t provide any details.

At a public appearance yesterday, she pledged continued support for a strengthened military and said the island’s efforts were winning it more international support.

“We will keep on strengthening our self-defense capabilities (and) will also keep on being a contributor to regional peace,” Tsai said.

The M1 Abrams would mark a significant upgrade from the aging tanks Taiwan’s army now uses, while the TOW and Javelin systems would upgrade Taiwan’s ability to repulse an attempt by China to land tanks and troops from across the 160 kilometer- wide Taiwan Strait. AP

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