The Trump administration recently approved a $2.2 billion arms deal with Taiwan that has angered the Communist politicians on mainland China. The deal, which will provide 100 M1A2T Abrams tanks to Taiwan as well as 250 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, is just the latest in a series of US arms sales to the Republic of China over the past 40 years. But coming as it does in the midst of a trade war with the People’s Republic of China, it comes across as another slap in the face to China and its President, Xi Jinping.
China has for years been slowly building up artificial islands in the South China Sea and outfitting them for military use. It intends to exercise an ever greater zone of control in the waters off its coast, so the fact that a de facto independent Taiwan continues to exist and resist Beijing’s pressure remains a thorn in its side.
The US, for its part, continues to state that it will come to Taiwan’s aid in the event of a military conflict with mainland China, and it continues to maintain freedom of navigation transits of warships through the Taiwan Strait separating Taiwan from the mainland. With the trade war with China heating up, China’s rhetoric has been heating up too, with Chinese military officials openly discussing the possibility of an invasion of Taiwan.
It would remain to be seen whether Taiwan will have the means to defend itself militarily in the event of an all-out invasion, as it would take quite a while for the US to summon enough forces to help in the island’s defense. Then there’s the fact that China has been building up weapons to combat US carrier battle groups. If China were to sink one or multiple US carriers, that could be the prelude to a major war between the two countries. Let’s hope that the rhetoric cools down, because no one wants to see such a war happen.