Following its eighth weapons sale to Taiwan in four years, the Trump administration approved its ninth sale – and the second weapons sale to America’s island ally in just one week. This deal reportedly worth $2.37 billion follows the sale of three weapons systems the week before worth $1.8 billion.
The earlier Taiwan weapons deal, as I wrote, included offensive missiles for the first time in four decades.
Those offensive weapons could be used to target coastal areas of China where People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces would be staging for an invasion of Taiwan.
This current sale is for 400 Boeing Harpoon Block II anti-ship cruise missiles. The National Interest reports that it “also includes 100 Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems and exercise missiles, radar trucks, and test equipment, along with U.S. technical assistance.”
Peter Suciu notes that the Harpoon has a range of just 67 nautical miles, “which could cover most of the Taiwan Strait yet not strike targets on the Chinese mainland.” Compared to the longer-range missiles provided in the earlier sale, explains Suici, “That essentially makes it a defensive weapon, should the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) mount a cross-strait invasion.”
“In such a capacity,” Suici adds, “it has been suggested that it could possibly limit a crisis from escalating,”
The Taiwan Strait is about 100 nautical miles at its widest point and just 70 nautical miles at its narrowest. Providing Taiwan weapons to adequately cover the straits, as well as others to reach the Chinese mainland, should increase deterrence by increasing the risks to Beijing, while also increasing the options to Taipei.
In the wake of China’s subjugation of Hong Kong, and its dramatically ramped up bullying and threats toward Taiwan, President Trump has been extremely forceful in demonstrating U.S. support for Taipei.
These extensive new weapons sales are just a part of that firm U.S. commitment.