China has been actively conducting military exercises around Taiwan for weeks now since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan. Though there has been a stiffening response from Taiwan, with their troops shooting a Chinese “civilian” drone in their air space, China has not reacted more aggressively since this happened last week.

However, with the US approving a whopping $1.1 billion military package to Taiwan, Chinese officials are saying the US is actively jeopardizing the US-China relationship.

The sale included Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office’s (TECRO) request to buy the following:

  • 60 AGM-84L-1 Harpoon Block II Missiles
  • 4 ATM-84L-1 Harpoon Block II exercise missiles
  • Harpoon Guidance Control Units (GCUs)
  • Harpoon Radar Seekers
  • Harpoon Rader Altimeters
  • Harpoon Captive Air Test Missiles (CATMs)
  • Containers, spare and repair parts
  • Support and test equipment
  • Publications/technical documentation
  • Training equipment and logistical support

Over the weekend, China threatened the Biden administration, saying this approval would thwart definitive action from China. In addition, the Chinese Embassy in Washington stated this is destabilizing the “peace…across the Taiwan Strait.”

In a series of tweets, Liu Pengyu, a Chinese spokesperson, called out President Joe Biden’s decision and asked for it to be “immediately” revoked. But, even though this has been approved on the executive level, congress still has to put its stamp of approval for the sale.

The deal is reportedly the largest one the Biden administration has made with Taiwan, according to Senior Research Fellow at the National University in Singapore Drew Thompson. Still, former President Donald Trump’s previous Taiwan deal was more substantial because, at the time, Taiwan needed “a larger supply of war reserve munitions on hand in advance of a conflict.”

Thompson, who used to work at the Pentagon, said the Chinese statements were aligned with their previous sentiment about the US “interfering” with a supposedly local issue as they continue to push their sovereignty over Taiwan. On the other hand, White House Senior Director for Taiwan and China Laura Rosenberger said sales like this usually take years to be delivered. Still, the administration is making a “substantial effort” to accelerate the process.

“We’re acutely aware of the need to expedite delivery,” she said.

Rosenberger said the US is taking a long-term strategy with the package assistance to Taiwan.

“The biggest threats we see that Taiwan will face are going to come from the sea and from the air,” Rosenberger said. “So it is really critical that they are able to use the Harpoons in support of the coastal defense and the Sidewinders in support of their air defense.”

The Biden administration stresses that China’s threats are real and that they should act as soon as possible to avoid any damage in the Asia-Pacific region.

Just last month, the US did a joint air exercise with Japan near Okinawa and sent two US warships through the Taiwan Strait.

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“We will not be reflexive or knee-jerk,” White House Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell told reporters last month. “We will be patient and effective, will continue to fly sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

Japan’s Forces Readying Near Taiwan

Japan Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo
Japan Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo signs a guest book at U.S. Forces Japan Headquarters, Yokota Air Base, Japan, Oct. 8, 2020. (Source: Defense Visual Information Distribution Service/getarchive)

Ever since the military exercises started around Taiwan, Japan has been showing its vexation about the events. Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said these missile firings and air demonstrations by China represented “serious threats to Japan’s national security and the safety of the Japanese people.”

China brushed off their statement and protests and said that it did not overstep Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). China, who is claiming 90 percent of the entire South China Sea is theirs, does not see any issues with positioning its military exercises around these waters.

However, instead of appeasing Japan, these reactions from China only intensifies Japan’s stronghold in their military stance. As of current reports, Japan’s military is one of the largest and most capable in the world, even after their military spending has been unofficially capped to 1% of their GDP in the past year.

So, to further equip Japan’s defenses, they are sending missiles and equipment to remote islands around the region, including Taiwan.

“When you look at the problems in Taiwan, the stronger the recognition that Japan is in a very harsh international environment. As a result, I think the debate about strengthening Japan’s defense capabilities will intensify,” Harukata Takenaka, a professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, said on TV Tokyo.