The Biden administration on Wednesday signed off on a $500 million arms sale to Taiwan. The Pentagon announced the island democracy will receive infrared search tracking systems for F-16 fighter jets along with other equipment necessary for their successful operation.
Military leaders defended the agreement to ship the supplies at a time when tensions with China are escalating. In a statement, the Pentagon claimed the transaction “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”
Biden’s State Department declared the sale will enhance Taiwan’s ability to counter “current and future threats.” Specifically, the equipment and software will enable the nation to better defend its airspace.
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It will also “increase interoperability with the United States through its F-16 program.” The Pentagon said Lockheed Martin Corp. will be the principal contractor.
Beijing, which believes Taiwan is simply a breakaway Chinese territory, has repeatedly insisted that the U.S. cease its military support of the island. Just last month, however, Washington agreed to a separate military aid package of up to $345 million in assistance.
As tension mounts, China frequently sends its aircraft and drones near Taiwan in increasingly provocative acts. The island government thanked the administration and Pentagon for the deal, according to a statement from its defense ministry.
Taiwan’s defense spending will reach a new record next year with an increase of 3.5% year-over-year. Its leaders pledge to elevate its defenses as China continues to insist that “reunification” is inevitable.
The Wednesday announcement did not signal that negotiations were concluded or the package finalized. Neither has a contract been signed, though Taiwan’s defense ministry said it expected that to take place “within a month.”
Under constant threat from China, Taiwan made substantial strides in its airborne capabilities. It is converting 141 F-16A/B jets into the newer F-16V type. It has also ordered 66 new F-16Vs.
These modern aircraft feature advanced avionics, firepower and radar capabilities.
Even so, China’s might could hardly be expected to be turned back without a full commitment from the U.S. to support the island nation. The danger is that Washington is drawn into yet another proxy war in which it writes a blank check to come to another’s defense.