Biden seeks Congress nod for arms sale to Taiwan

The administration plans to ask Congress to approve an estimated $1.1 billion arms sale to Taiwan amid heightened tensions with China…reports Asian Lite News

President Joe Biden will formally request the Congress to approve $1.1 billion in arms sales to Taiwan, which includes 60 anti-ship missiles and 100 air-to-air missiles, Politico reported.

The Chinese navy on Sunday kept a close watch as two American warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait, separating China and Taiwan, the first such operation since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei early this month, sparking a new round of tensions between the two countries.

The US warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait where the Chinese military has carried out its biggest exercises for several days in August, often crossing the median line that separated the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, which Beijing viciously claims as part of it.

“The USS Antietam and the USS Chancellorsville, two US guided-missile cruisers, sailed through the Taiwan Strait on August 28 and hyped it up publicly, the Eastern Theatre Command (ETC) of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said on Sunday.

The ETC conducted security tracking and monitoring of the US warships’ passage in the whole course and had all movements of the two US warships under control, Senior Colonel Shi Yi, spokesperson for the ETC, said in a statement.

The troops of the PLA Eastern Theatre Command always stay on high alert and get ready to thwart any provocation, he added. Criticising the American naval ships transit through the island, a write-up in the state-run Global Times said the US is trying to appease the Taiwan authorities and regional allies, conveying to them that Washington will not back down under military pressure from the Chinese mainland.

This is the first time the US warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait, a busy and strategic waterway separating China and Taiwan, after Pelosi’s visit though according to the official media accounts here over 100 American warships transited through the water since 2012, challenging China’s claims over the area.

Photo taken on May 21, 2020 shows red flags on the Tian’anmen Square in Beijing, capital of China. (Xinhua/Cai Yang/IANS)

‘Restraint does not mean we won’t counter China’

The more China provokes the more calm Taiwan must be, but restraint does not mean there cannot be “strong countermeasures” if needed, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday visiting front line forces based on islands in the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

China, which claims Taiwan as its territory despite the strong objections of the government in Taipei, has carried out military exercises around the island this month after a visit by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Visiting a major air and naval base on the Penghu islands in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai praised the armed forces for their tireless efforts to protect Taiwan, and condemned Beijing for its drills and intimidation.

“I want to tell everyone that the more the enemy provokes, the more calm we must be,” President Tsai told naval officers.

“We will not provoke disputes, and we will exercise self-restraint, but it does not mean that we will not counter,” she added.

“I have ordered the Ministry of National Defense to take necessary and strong countermeasures in a timely manner to defend the safety of the country’s airspace,” President Tsai said, without elaborating.

No shots have been fired, and Taiwan’s government has repeatedly said it has responded calmly to China’s activities.

But Taiwan has been particularly upset recently by Chinese drones flying very close to islands it controls next to China’s coast, which President Tsai said was part of Beijing’s “grey zone” warfare.

The warships and fighter jets based at Penghu have been going out armed with live ammunition since China began its exercises this month, officers told reporters on the trip.

Frigate captain Lee Kuang-ping said that they regularly had been trading radio warnings with Chinese warships.

“Sometimes near the drill zone communist Chinese fishing boats appear, and they provocatively say ‘hit them, hit them!'” captain Lee added.

The Chinese military unit responsible for the area adjacent to Taiwan, the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command, released on Aug. 15 a video of the Penghu islands, apparently taken by China’s air force.

Taiwan’s military termed the video information warfare, accusing China of exaggeration and saying it was not true Chinese forces had come near the islands.

Penghu, a summer tourist destination for its beaches, is close to Taiwan’s southwestern coast, unlike the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen and Matsu islands, which are right next to China’s shores.

Taiwan’s armed forces are well-equipped but dwarfed by China’s. President Tsai has been overseeing a modernisation programme and has made increasing defence spending a priority.

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