During an inspection of the People’s Liberation Army Marine Corps (PLAMC) base in Chaozhou City, province of Guangdong, China’s Leader-for-Life Xi Jinping called on the troops to “put all (their) minds and energy on preparing for war,” reported state news agency Xinhua.
According to Xinhua, reported CNN, Xi told the soldiers to “maintain a state of high alert” and called on them to be “absolutely loyal, absolutely pure, and absolutely reliable.” Xi’s visit and war-like words come the day after the White House notified the U.S. Congress that it had approved the sale of three advanced weapon systems to Taiwan, noted CNN.
Monday’s notifications to Congress were for a truck-based High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), long-range offensive, air-to-ground SLAM-ER missiles, and external sensor pods for F-16 jet fighters to provide real-time imagery and data from the jets to the ground.
As Singapore based naval analyst, Collin Koh noted, “The confirmed sale of SLAM-ER, a long-range standoff strike weapon, would represent a step-up from past arms sales to Taiwan which then had a “defensive” emphasis. This might have been inevitable given the widening cross-strait military power asymmetry.”
China’s first response to news of the sale came from Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, reported CNN, who sternly told Washington to “immediately cancel any arms sales plans to Taiwan” and cut all “US-Taiwan military ties.”
It is highly doubtful the U.S. will do as China asked, especially under President Trump, who amid escalating tensions with China, has dramatically strengthened ties with Taipei.
Following the Monday announcement, White House officials then told Congress on Tuesday that the Trump administration was also planning to sell large, sophisticated MQ-9 Reaper drones and land-based Harpoon anti-ship, coastal defense missile systems to Taiwan. These, along with underwater sea mines, will help deter amphibious landings from the mainland.
Al Jazeera reported that U.S. National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien recently said Taiwan needs to invest in capabilities including more coastal defense cruise missiles, naval mines, fast-attack craft, mobile artillery and advanced surveillance assets to make itself like a military “porcupine,” since, “Lions generally don’t like to eat porcupines.”
These increased U.S. arms sales come with calls by U.S. officials to Taiwan, similar to those made to other allies – to increase its defense spending and improve its military capabilities – to make it clear Taiwan is fully committed to defend itself if attacked.
These calls apparently are being heeded. Al Jazeera noted that:
On Saturday, in a speech to mark Taiwan’s national day, [Taiwanese president] Tsai said the government would continue to modernise the island’s defence capabilities and enhance its capacity for asymmetric warfare to “deal with military expansion and provocation from the other side of the Taiwan Strait”. Asymmetric warfare is designed to make any Chinese attack difficult and costly, for example with smart mines and portable missiles.