Friday 21 April 2023

Taiwan to buy 400 American anti-ship missiles as China continues to threaten the island nation

 Taiwan has announced its intention to purchase up to 400 anti-ship missiles from the United States as the democratically-governed island nation continues to face threats from China.

The Department of Defense announced several weeks ago that it had reached an agreement with an unknown buyer over a $1.17 billion contract for up to 400 Harpoon anti-ship missiles made by Boeing. Bloomberg confirmed with multiple sources that the unknown buyer is Taiwan. 

The Pentagon still refuses to confirm where the 400 Harpoon missiles will go, but Defense Department spokesman Army Lt. Col. Martin Meiners noted that “we will continue to work with industry to provide Taiwan defense equipment in a timely manner.”

“The United States’ provision to Taiwan of defense articles, which includes sustainment to existing capabilities via Foreign Military Sales and Direct Commercial Sales, is essential for Taiwan’s security,” added Meiners.

China immediately slammed the deal, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin saying the move undermines “China’s sovereignty and security interests.”

Wang warned that the U.S. should “stop seeking to change the status quo” between the Mainland and Taiwan. He added that China would take “strong and resolute measures” to defend itself.

China has long claimed to have legal, if not de facto, ownership over the Taiwan Strait and the island itself.

Taiwan deal to bolster island’s anti-invasion capabilities

The Pentagon’s report is for up to 400 “RGM-84L-4 Harpoon Block II Update Grade B canister tactical missiles.” This $1.7 billion order was preceded by a similar order Taiwan made in March 2022 for $498 million for Harpoon “Coastal Defense System” launch equipment such as mobile transporters, radar and training equipment. The report also shows that Taiwan ordered a variety of other logistics and support equipment, as well as four blast test vehicles.

The RGM-84 version of the Harpoon missile is intended for use against surface ships, which means they are not meant for use against submarines or aircraft.

The order is expected to be completed by March 2029. This deal concludes negotiations that began in 2020 when Taiwan approached the U.S. about buying land-launched Harpoon missiles as part of ongoing efforts to modernize its military. Taiwan already has older, ship-launched versions of the Harpoon missile, also made by Boeing.

Ground-launched Harpoon missiles are used to bolster a country’s coastal defenses. Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies noted that tabletop war game simulations of a potential invasion of Taiwan by China show that land-launched Harpoon missiles significantly boosted Taiwan’s defensive capabilities.

“Because of their mobility and ability to range the entire strait, these missiles were highly effective against Chinese invasion forces,” said Cancian. “They also reduced the need to station U.S. forces on the island. However, 400 is not nearly enough. The Taiwanese need many more.”

Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, cited the $1.7 billion deal with Taiwan as part of over $19 billion worth of “backlogged” U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan that he said needed to be accelerated.

In addition to the Harpoon, the list of military equipment the U.S. owes Taiwan includes F-16 Block 70 fighter aircraft, Mark 48 heavyweight submarine-launched torpedoes, FIM-92 Stinger man-portable surface-to-air missiles and M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers.

Taiwan has refused to comment on the deal for anti-ship missiles, but Defense Ministry spokesperson Sun Li-fang said the island nation is confident the deal can be completed on schedule.

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