The US State Department has approved the sale of anti-tank mine-laying systems to Taiwan for almost $200 million. The move comes amid heightened tensions between Beijing and Taipei.
In a tweet on Thursday, State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs said it “authorizes a proposed Foreign Military Sales case for Taiwan to purchase Volcano anti-tank systems valued at up to $180 million.”
While the agreement is supposed to go through the procedure of notifying Congress, in practice, these notifications are not usually made unless lawmakers had already given the executive branch an informal go-ahead.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense confirmed the deal, adding that it expects it to enter into force in one month.
The ministry noted that the “US agreed to sell items with high maneuverability and rapid mine-laying efficiency,” enabling the island’s military to “quickly respond to enemy threats” and improving its “asymmetric combat capabilities.”
It also thanked the US for the approval, adding that “frequent military operations” around Taiwan conducted by China have “posed a serious military threat to our country.”
M136 Volcanoes were developed in the 1980s by the US Army and can be mounted on ground vehicles or helicopters, enabling the military to swiftly disperse land mines over large areas.
The deal comes at a time of heightened tensions between Taipei and Beijing. On Tuesday, Tsai Ing-wen, the president of the self-ruled island, announced the extension of compulsory military service from four months to a year, citing the ‘Chinese threat’.
Beijing denounced the move, warning that it would only lead to the Taiwanese people being used as “cannon fodder.”
This back-and-forth comes after Taiwan claimed earlier this week that it had spotted more than 70 Chinese military planes and drones, as well as several naval vessels, near the island.
Beijing described the activity as “strike drills” in response to the “current US-Taiwan escalation and provocation.” The exercises came several days after the US authorized $10 billion in security assistance for Taiwan within its military budget.
Beijing considers Taiwan to be sovereign Chinese territory under its One-China policy. Since 1949, the island has been ruled by nationalists who fled the mainland with US help after losing the Chinese Civil War to the communists.