WASHINGTON — Senior U.S. congressional aides said Monday that the Obama administration has notified Congress that it has decided to sell weapons to Taiwan, a move expected to worsen already tense ties between China and the United States.
China considers Taiwan a renegade province and will vehemently object to the arms package, which is likely to include UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles and material related to Taiwan’s defence communications network.
The aides said the administration has been consulting with Congress about Taiwan’s defence needs ahead of a formal announcement of the sale. Meetings began last week and are continuing this week.
The aides, who have direct knowledge of the meetings, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of arms sales to Taiwan and because the notification is not yet official.
The package appears to dodge a thorny issue: the aides say the F-16 fighter jets that Taiwan covets are not likely to be included.
The sale would satisfy parts of an $11 billion arms package originally pledged to the self-governing island by former President George W. Bush in 2001. That package has been provided in stages because of political and budgetary considerations in Taiwan and the United States. The aides say it is unclear when an official announcement will come but that it could be soon.
The sale has been widely expected, and Beijing has already warned of a disruption in ties with Washington.
Taiwan is the most sensitive matter in U.S.-China relations, with the potential to plunge into conflict two powers increasingly linked in security and economic issues. Many in Washington expect that a temporary break in military ties is inevitable.
China vows to eventually bring Taiwan under its control and aims more than 1,000 ballistic missiles at the island; the U.S. government, on the other hand, is bound by law to ensure the island is able to respond to Chinese threats.