The US government announced approval Wednesday to sell US$1 billion worth of advanced air-to-ground missiles to Taiwan as the island shores up its defenses against the threat from China.
The State Department said it had agreed to sell 135 of the AGM-84H SLAM-ER, precision-guided, air-launched cruise missiles and related equipment.
Also approved was the sale of six MS-110 reconnaissance pods for air reconnaissance and 11 M142 mobile light rocket launchers, taking the value of three arms packages to $1.8 billion.
The SLAM-ER missiles will help Taiwan “meet current and future threats as it provides all-weather, day and night, precision attack capabilities against both moving and stationary targets” on the ground or ocean surface, a statement said.
China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, has stepped up pressure toward the island over the past year, sending attack and surveillance aircraft into its airspace and ships near its waters.
Last week Beijing released a video of a military exercise simulating an invasion of a Taiwan-like territory featuring missile strikes and amphibious landings.
While Taiwan has for decades fallen back on an implicit US security guarantee, Washington has urged it to strengthen its own capabilities to resist an attack.
But Washington also wants Taiwan to upgrade its armaments.
“Whether there’s an amphibious landing, a missile attack, a grey zone-type operation, they really need to fortify themselves,” President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said last week.
“Taiwan needs to start looking at some asymmetric and anti-access area denial strategies … and really fortify itself in a manner that would deter the Chinese from any sort of amphibious invasion or even a grey zone operation against them,” said O’Brien.
The sales announced Wednesday did not include the MQ9 Reaper combat drones which Taiwan has reportedly requested.