WASHINGTON — The US State Department has given its OK to a major arms sales for Taiwan, including two Perry-class Frigates and a large package of weapons.
If approved by Congress, the total package could be worth $1.83 billion and could greatly enhance Taiwan's defense capabilities at a time when the Pentagon is focused on countering Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.
The package is built around two Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigates (FFG-7) being provided as Excess Defense Articles. According to a notice on the Defense Security Cooperation Agency's website, each vessel will be equipped with the "MK-92 Mod 6 Fire Control System, the SQQ- 89V(9) Anti-Submarine Warfare System, the MK-75 76mm Gun System, Phalanx 20mm CloseIn-Weapon System (CIWS) (Block 18), MK-13 Guided Missile Launching System (GMLS), AN/SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare System, SPS-49 Radar, SQR-19 Towed Array Sonar, SQS-56 Sonar, spare and repair parts."
It also includes a collection of Javelin anti-tank missiles; TOW 2B anti-tank missiles; AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicles; follow-on work for Taiwan's Syun-An C4ISR systems; Link 11/Link 16 for Taiwan's naval ships; F-16 MIDS/NTAMS/Fuzes; Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems; and Stinger surface-to-air missiles.
While much of the world's attention is focused on the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group, commonly known as ISIS or ISIL, the Pentagon under Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has maintained the need to develop technologies and policies geared around the Pacific region. On Monday, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work said China "embodies a more enduring strategic challenge" in the long term for the United States than Russia or terrorism.
Carter has made two keynote trips to Asia in his first year, including a May visit which was focused extensively on building up partner capacity in the region to counter Chinese aggression.
In its announcement, the State Department emphasized that the sale is consistent with the US' policy towards Taiwan and China.
"There is no change to our longstanding 'one China' policy based on the Three Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act," said David McKeeby, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
"Our longstanding policy on arms sales to Taiwan has been consistent across six different U.S. administrations," McKeeby said. "We believe our consistent policy has contributed to the security of Taiwan, and has also supported the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait."
Pentagon spokesman Bill Urban said "US and Chinese counterparts have been in contact today," both on the military and political level, but declined to go into more details and referred reporters to Chinese officials for comment.
In a statement, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the outspoken chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he "strongly" supports the arms sale and indicated he would like to see more in the future.
"Going forward, the United States must establish a more regularized process for considering requests for arms sales to Taiwan in order to avoid extended periods in which a fear of upsetting the U.S.-China relationship may harm Taiwan's defense capabilities," McCain said. "For its part, Taiwan will also need to work to meet its commitment to spend at least 3 percent of its annual gross domestic product on defense."
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.