China tensions rocket as Joe Biden set to approve first arms sale to Taiwan

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Washington will supply Taiwan with self-propelled artillery in a deal expected to be fulfilled within three years. China has responded to the news in anger, as the nation’s state-controlled tabloid, The Global Times, said the weapons deal would “add fuel to the flames” of already strained relations between Beijing and Taiwan. The American Institute in Taiwan, which is the nearest thing to a US embassy in Taipei, told the administration of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in March that the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) would tell the US Congress of the deal very soon.

A report by Taiwan’s United Daily News on Sunday said the shipment of military hardware is expected to include 40 M109A6 “Paladin” self-propelled howitzers.

The US will also send other related equipment and delivery is expected to arrive between 2023 and 2025.

Taiwanese defense minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said he had not yet received formal notification of the deal’s approval from the US.

The United Daily News reported that the original plan to send the advanced howitzers was discussed during the Trump administration.

However, it was reported that the deal was delayed due to complications in sourcing the M982 Excalibur-guided artillery shells that the advanced howitzers use.

The Taiwanese publication lays the blame for the delay on Sweden, which is part of the research and development team working on the weapon.

The United Daily News claimed that Sweden attempted to block the shipments of M982 Excalibur shells that are used in the 155 mm precision weapon.

Taiwan’s public service Central News Agency said the new howitzers would replace the nation’s ageing artillery batteries.

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The shells fired by the advanced US howitzers are guided by GPS and can strike targets at distances of up to 25 miles.

In 2020 Taiwan was the largest recipient of US-made weapons and equipment.

Taipei purchased $11.8 billion (£8.47 billion) worth of military goods in 2020.

Beijing has responded to these arms sales by saying the country is “ready” to take on any Taiwanese resistance.

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The Global Times has claimed that China’s People’s Liberation Army “will be ready if the island resists reunification by force”.

Taiwan is also in the process of acquiring US-made AGM-158 JASSM long-range cruise missiles.

The island democracy has increased its defence spending in order to counter China’s president Xi Jinping’s belligerent rhetoric to unite the island with mainland China by force if it is necessary.

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