MELBOURNE, Australia – The U.S. State Department has cleared the sale of self-propelled howitzers and GPS-guided kits for artillery shells to Taiwan, marking the first such approval for the country’s self-ruling by the Biden administration.

The Defense Security and Cooperation Agency, or DSCA, announced the approval on Wednesday afternoon for Taiwan to acquire 40 M-109A6 Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzers with associated equipment and support. The estimated cost of the potential sale is $750 million.

Also included in the flagged arms package to the self-ruling east Asian island are 20 M992A2 field artillery ammunition support vehicles and 5 M88A2 Hercules armored recovery vehicles, along with an Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, radios, spares, plus other contractor and logistics support.

More significantly, the approved package for Taiwan also includes 1,698 precision guidance kits, which can be fitted on standard 155mm artillery shells to convert them into GPS-guided shells for precision artillery strikes against point targets.

The prime contractor for the howitzers and armored recovery vehicles will be BAE Systems, while the Anniston Army Depot in Bynum, Alabama, would be responsible for the ammunition support vehicles. The DSCA says that the proposed sale “will contribute to the modernization of the recipient’s self-propelled howitzer fleet, enhancing its ability to meet current and future threats.”

Reactions across the Strait

Taiwan has welcomed the announcement, with the island’s foreign affairs ministry saying that the decision by the Biden Administration “demonstrates the U.S. government’s commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act,” which commits the U.S. to sell arms necessary to maintain Taiwan’s ability to defend itself.

The government added that sale would allow Taiwan “to maintain a rock-solid self-defense and regional peace and stability.”

China, which views Taiwan as a rogue province and has vowed to reunify the island with the mainland by force if necessary, has criticized the announced sale, with a foreign ministry spokesperson reiterating that Taiwan “is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory” and the U.S. “undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests by selling arms to the Taiwan region.”

The spokesperson further urged the U.S. to “stop arms sales to and military interactions with Taiwan, and immediately revoke relevant arms sales to Taiwan, lest it should cause more damages to China-U.S. relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

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