The United States has approved a historic arms sale to Taiwan, with aircraft industry leader Boeing set to provide 400 Harpoon anti–ship missiles to the self–governed democratic island.
This comes as tensions between Taiwan and China have risen after U.S. lawmakers met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing–wen in California, prompting China to conduct military drills around the island.
The $1.7 billion contract between Boeing and the US Naval Air Systems Command marks the first time Taiwan will have purchased land–launched versions of the missile. The agreement was approved by Congress in 2020 and approved by Pentagon officials earlier this month, although the contract did not mention Taiwan as the buyer.
Army Lieutenant Colonel Martin Meiners, a Defense Department spokesman, declined to confirm whether Taiwan is the purchaser but said, “we will continue to work with industry to provide Taiwan defense equipment in a timely manner.”
The deal also includes the F–16 Block 70 fighter, the MK–48 torpedo, the M109A6 Paladin self–propelled howitzer, and the Stinger missile.
China’s Communist Party views Taiwan as its territory and has threatened to pressure and internationally isolate the island. China’s Ministry of National Defense has condemned the “transit” of President Tsai into the U.S. or any official exchange between the two countries, saying such a move “seriously violates” the one–China principle.
In response to the arms sale, China’s Ministry of National Defense said it will “take resolute and forceful measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R–CA) and dozens of other lawmakers, including the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, met with President Tsai in California, defying threats from China. During a joint press conference, McCarthy said he believes U.S.-Taiwan relations are stronger than ever and called for continuing arms sales to Taiwan, enhancing economic cooperation, and promoting shared values with the island.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–CA) visited Taiwan last summer despite Chinese officials warning against her trip overseas.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies conducted a series of “tabletop war games,” which featured land–launched Harpoon missiles, and analyst Mark Cancian said “because of their mobility and ability to range the entire strait, these missiles were highly effective against Chinese invasion forces.”
It remains to be seen if the arms sale will lead to a further escalation of tensions between China and Taiwan, but one thing is clear: the United States is committed to protecting its ally and providing the necessary resources and defense equipment to do so.