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White House moves forward on three arms sales to Taiwan

The White House is moving forward with three sales of advanced weaponry to Taiwan, sending in recent days a notification of the deals to Congress for approval, five sources familiar with the situation said on Monday.

The move in the run-up to the November 3 US election, first reported by Reuters, is likely to anger China, which considers Taiwan a wayward province that it has vowed to reunite with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Reuters broke the news in September that as many as seven major weapons systems were making their way through the US export process as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China.

Asked for a response to Monday’s news, the Chinese embassy urged Washington in an emailed statement to stop arms sales to and military ties with Taiwan, “lest it should gravely harm China-US relations and cross-Strait peace and stability”.

“China consistently and firmly opposes US arms sales to Taiwan and has firm resolve in upholding its sovereignty and security,” an embassy representative said in the statement.

Leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees were notified that three of the planned weapons sales had been approved by the US State Department which oversees foreign military sales, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The informal notifications were for a truck-based rocket launcher made by Lockheed Martin Corp called a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), long-range air-to-ground missiles made by Boeing Co called SLAM-ER, and external sensor pods for F-16 jets that allow the real-time transmission of imagery and data from the aircraft back to ground stations.

Notifications for the sale of other weapons systems, including large, sophisticated aerial drones, land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles and underwater mines, to deter amphibious landings, have yet to reach Capitol Hill, but these were expected soon, said the sources.

A State Department spokesman said: “As a matter of policy, the United States does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress.”