The United States is planning to sell as many as sevenmajor weapons systems to Taiwan- including mines, cruise missiles and drones, according to Reuters sources - despite strong opposition from China.
The sale would come as relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, a lingering trade war and disputes about the spread of the novel coronavirus.
China sees Taiwan as a renegade province and has denounced the Trump administration’s support for the island.
The U.S. has made intermittent arms sales to Taiwan for years, but usually spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing.
Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from precedence. Taiwan’s President Tsai-Ing wen was re-elected in January and has made strengthening defenses a top priority.
Last month, she met U.S. health secretary Alex Azar - the highest-level U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 40 years. He praised Taipei’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and criticized Beijing’s.
Both Washington and Beijing have ramped up military drills in the region, and US warships regularly sail through the Taiwan Strait. Washington is keen to create a military counterbalance to Chinese forces in the area, building on what is known within the Pentagon as "Fortress Taiwan."
The latest weapons packages to Taiwan are on their way through the export process, people familiar with the deals told Reuters - with a notification due to Congress within weeks.