The Trump administration is accelerating the pace of its weapons sales to Taiwan even as the country still expects an invasion by China within the decade.
The rush by the U.S, to arm Taiwan is matched by the determination of president Tsai Ing-wen to ensure the Republic of China Armed Forces (ROCAF) can deter the expected invasion, and make Taiwan more costly to attack.
Military experts said the pace of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan is unprecedented. In August, the Trump administration finally approved the sale of 66 Lockheed Martin F-16V Fighting Falcon air superiority jet fighters to Taiwan.
Also in August, Taiwan said it planned to acquire U.S.-made Tomahawk cruise missiles with a range of 1,000 km, Harpoon anti-ship missiles that can reach 280 km and underwater "smart mines" to sink Chinese warships. Taiwan will deploy these weapons systems to reinforce its shore defenses against an amphibious invasion by China across the 180 kilometer-wide Taiwan Strait.
Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan's de facto ambassador to the U.S., said her country has begun negotiations with the Trump administration to acquire a range of "hardware capabilities." She revealed the U.S. cruise missiles will be deployed for coastal defense alongside her country's indigenous Hsiung Feng hypersonic anti-ship missiles.
Hsiao said Taiwan faces "an existential survival issue" on account of China's relentless territorial and sovereignty claims over the country. China considers Taiwan a renegade province and vows to reunite with the island, by force if necessary.
Now, the Trump administration has confirmed and identified the hardware capabilities mentioned by Hsiao. It also said it plans to sell these weapons to Taiwan. On Taiwan's shopping list:
* HIMARS or the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System truck-mounted rocket launcher system. HIMARS carries six rockets or one MGM-140 ATACMS missile on a U.S. Army five-ton truck.
* FGM-148 Javelin man-portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missile.
* Tomahawk cruise missiles
* Harpoon anti-ship missiles to arm shore defenses
* Four long-range MQ-9B SeaGuardian unmanned aerial vehicles from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. SeaGuardian has a range of more than 11,000 km and an endurance of more than 40 hours.
* "Smart" underwater mines. This will likely be the MK65 Quickstrike shallow-water mine used primarily against surface ships.
* An unspecified anti-submarine capability
In 2015, the government of former president Ma Ying-jeou published a study predicting a Chinese invasion on or before 2020. That report helped accelerate Taiwan's plan to heavily strengthen its conventional military and asymmetric capabilities to defeat this invasion.