US approves first arms sale to Taiwan under Trump

In a move likely to irk China, the Trump Administration notified Congress Thursday that it intends to sell Taiwan a $1.4 billion arms package, the first such sale under President Donald Trump.

The White House’s National Security Council spokesman, Michael Anton, confirmed the administration’s approval of the sale to CNN.

A US official familiar with the deal told CNN that the package would include advanced missiles and torpedoes including the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon and MK 48 6AT Heavy Weight Torpedoes.

The deal will also include technical support for an early warning radar system.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert confirmed the deal during a news conference Thursday, saying “the administration had formally notified Congress of seven proposed defense sales for Taiwan,” adding that the deal was valued at “about $1.42 billion.

The Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce, signaled strong support for the sale, calling it “long overdue” in a statement issued shortly after its announcement.

Congress has 30 days to raise any objections to the deal.

China considers self-governing democratic Taiwan a renegade province and Beijing has not ruled out using military force to bring Taiwan under its rule.

The US does not recognize Taiwan — officially known as the Republic of China — as an independent country, and adheres to the “One China Policy,” which means it does not maintain an official relationship with Taiwan.

Nauert added that there was no change to the “one China” policy.”

“Today’s notifications are consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, and our support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability,” a US official familiar with the sale told CNN.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act the US is legally required to provide Taiwan with the ability to defend itself.

In a move that seemed to portend a shift in US policy, President-elect Trump spoke to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen in a phone call in December, upending decades of diplomatic protocol.

However the Trump administration has since said that it remains committed to the decades-long “one China policy.”

But China has long criticized US arms sales to Taiwan and the latest announcement is likely to draw a protest from Beijing.

The announcement of the arms sale comes the same day the US Treasury Department announced a series of sanctions and measures that would among other things, sever US financial ties with China’s Bank of Dandong, which the administration claims acts as a pipeline to support alleged illicit North Korean financial activity.

Both announcements came before Trump is due to meet South Korea’s new president Moon Jae-in at the White House. Both leaders are anxious to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile program.

The State Department also issued a statement marking the 20th anniversary of the transfer of Hong Kong from the UK to China, saying the US was “concerned about any infringements on civil liberties” in Hong Kong.

All of the recent administration announcements are likely to be met with opposition from China as Trump prepares to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the meeting of the G20 next month.

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