WASHINGTON — The State Department on Thursday cleared a massive arms deal for Taiwan, worth up to $1.3 billion.

The move comes as at a time when the Trump administration continues to rely on China to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

The potential package includes seven different items sought by the Taiwanese government:

  • Early Warning Radar Surveillance Technical Support ($400 million)
  • AGM-154C Joint Stand-off Weapon (JSOW) ($185.5 million)
  • AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation (HARM) Missiles ($147.5 million)
  • MK 48 6AT Heavy Weight Torpedoes ($250 million)
  • MK 46 to MK-54 Torpedo Upgrade ($175 million)
  • SM-2 Missile Components ($125 million)
  • AN/SLQ-32A Electronic Warfare (EW) Shipboard Suite Upgrade ($80 million)

As with all foreign military sales, the agreement must be cleared by Congress and then go through actual negotiations over the equipment and dollar figures. As a result, the sale will likely shift and end up below the $1.3 billion estimate.

A U.S government official, speaking on background ahead of the announcement, said the weapons offer does not reflect any change in the long-standing "One China" policy. China does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation.

"Taiwan’s defensive capability gives it the confidence to engage with the mainland in dialogue to improve cross-Strait relations," the official said. "In this context, our arms sales to Taiwan support peace and stability — not only in the Taiwan Strait, but also in the entire Asia Pacific region. We support further development of cross-Strait relations at a pace and scope acceptable to people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait."

The approval comes at a time when the White House is vocally putting pressure on China to control North Korea.

Speaking Wednesday at a conference organized by the Center for a New American Security, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said China represents a vital lever to pressure North Korea to step back from nuclear weapons.

"I think one the key elements of the strategy is that decision, how much China is able, really willing, able to help," McMaster said. "China does have a great deal of control over that situation, largely through coercive power related to its economic relations."

"The North Korean problem is not a problem between the United States and North Korea. It’s a problem between North Korea, China and the world. And China recognizes that this is a big problem for them," McMaster added.

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.

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