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US clears $100 million Patriot missile deal for Taiwan in bid to deter China

American soldiers set up a Patriot missile launcher during field training at Fort Sill in 2019 (Photo: US Army)

With tensions on the rise in the Indo-Pacific region, the Joe Biden administration has approved a $100 million contract with Taiwan to boost the island’s missile systems in case of conflict with China.

The Pentagon said on Monday that the funds would be used to “sustain, maintain, and improve” the Patriot missile defence system on the island as the island nation faces increased aggravations from Beijing in the form of military jets intruding into Taiwanese air defence zones almost on a daily basis.

The statement by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said: "This proposed sale serves U.S. national, economic, and security interests by supporting the recipient’s continuing efforts to modernize its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability. The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, economic and progress in the region.

The proposed sale will help to sustain the recipient’s missile density and ensure readiness for air operations. The recipient will use this capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen homeland defense. The recipient will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment and services into its armed forces.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region".

Taiwan News reports that "Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province, has not ruled out the use of force to unify the island with the mainland and has in recent months escalated fighter jet flights over Taiwanese airspace".

Beijing has been vociferous about its intentions to take over Taiwan and merge it with the mainland even if this has to be done through an armed assault. Taiwan is barely 180 kms away from China's eastern coast across the Taiwan Straits. In response, Taiwan has begun to acquire American weapons and has also sounded Tokyo for military assistance.

Recently, the US and Japan had stated that they would begin placing missile systems in and around Japanese islands in a bid to deter China and to activate these in case of a Chinese military attack. These missiles are also being placed close to Taiwanese territory.

In a tweet, Taiwan's defence ministry thanked the US and said: "We express our gratitude to @StateDept's approval of a US$ 100 million arms sale to #Taiwan. The #FMS is based on the #TaiwanRelationsAct and #SixAssurances that strengthen our defense capabilities and maintain regional peace and stability".