US sells Patriot upgrade package to Taiwan to deter ‘regional threats’
The United States has approved a request from Taiwan to modernize the self-ruled island’s Patriot surface-to-air missile systems to counter what it claims as "regional threats", amid escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington.
According to reports, the US State Department said on Friday that Taiwan had requested to buy an estimated $620 million upgrade package for its Patriot missiles “in order to support an operational life of 30 years.”
It said Lockheed Martin would be the main contractor and explicitly announced that the sale would not only serve US interests but strengthen Taiwan’s military in the face of “regional threats” — in a veiled rebuke of China.
Taiwan’s defense ministry confirmed the report and said the arms sale — the seventh by the US administration to the island — is expected to take effect within the next month.
China has sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan, and under the “One China” policy, almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty, saying the island is part of China’s territory awaiting reunification.
The US, too, recognizes Chinese sovereignty over the island but has long courted Taipei in an attempt to counter Beijing.
Washington, which has no formal diplomatic relations with Taipei by law, is the island’s largest weapons supplier and an avid backer of Taiwan's secessionist president Tsai Ing-wen, causing increasing tensions with Beijing over trade and a host of other issues.
Washington almost regularly makes provocative moves around the self-governed island, particularly by sailing its warships through the sensitive and strategic Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from China.
The provocative moves draw angry reaction from China, which has never ruled out the use of force to bring the island under its full control.