The US Department of Defense officially announced the arms production contract for Lockheed Martin in the next 10 years including a major order for 66 F-16V fighters worth $8 billion with Taiwan on August 14.
With the recent intensification of the China-US game, this arms sale may add fuel to the situation. Although Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities are "rejoicing" with the arms purchase, public opinion on the island believes that Taiwan has once again acted as a "cash machine" and is constantly being pushed to the brink of danger.
Selling arms to Taiwan is a major tactic used by the US government to play the "Taiwan card". Since the current US government took office, it has approved seven arms sales to Taiwan with a total value of more than $13.2 billion, covering missiles, fighters, heavy torpedoes, and other weapons and technologies.
Just after the US approved the sale of the Patriot-3 missile to Taiwan in July, China announced sanctions on Lockheed Martin, the main contractor of the arms sale. Since the beginning of this month, the US government has been planning more arms sales to Taiwan despite repeated warnings from China.
First, Reuters reports said that the US plans to once again sell at least four Sea Guardian large surveillance drones and their relevant ground stations and accessories to Taiwan, with a total value of more than $600 million. Then, The Hill, an American news website based in Washington, D.C., reported that Taiwan has formally signed an agreement to purchase fighter jets from Lockheed Martin, which will be the implementation of the contract for the sale of 66 F-16V fighters approved by the US State Department in last August. It will also be the largest arms sale to Taiwan since the Trump administration took office.
This batch of arms sales is the first time that the US has sold advanced fighter jets to Taiwan since President George H.W. Bush announced the sale of 150 F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan in 1992. Taiwan media reported that the US military plans to deliver the latest F-16V fighters to Taiwan from 2023 on and the delivery will be done by 2026. Taiwan Air Force’s Mirage 2000 and the AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-kuo fighter jets will be replaced.
Some Taiwan media have noticed that the US used to sell weapons to Taiwan mainly for defensive purposes. Even if the US sold Taiwan M1A2 tanks, they will not be useful if the Chinese mainland does not reunify Taiwan by force. However, in the past two years, the US has begun to sell equipment with a range of 300 kilometers to Taiwan. One example is the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a Multiple-Launch Rocket System (MLRS). This is undoubtedly for Taiwan to spend money for acting as a "watchdog" for the US, and all the risks are borne by Taiwan itself.
China Times, a daily Chinese newspaper published in Taiwan, criticized that "the DPP authorities almost always takes everything as soon as the US issues invoices, regardless of whether they need tanks that exceed the load of the road, outdated fighters, and unused torpedoes. As soon as the order arrives, the authorities immediately set up a special budget and leave trillions of debts to the future generations".
The DPP authorities pursue a policy of "relying on the US to resist China", they "accept all orders for arms sales from the US". However, the problem is that these weapons are only cheap props used by the US to make trouble, and they cannot effectively help Taiwan authorities resist the military attacks of the Chinese mainland. The US arms sales to Taiwan are merely using Taiwan as a "cash machine". The purpose of the US is to bargain with the Chinese mainland on other issues.
From an economic point of view, the arms sold by the US to Taiwan are basically backlogs. On the issue of arms sales to Taiwan, the US has always followed the "America First" principle and will never sell what Taiwan really needs. In addition, even if Taiwan buys more "advanced" weapons and equipment, it will not be able to change the status quo that the military strength gap between two sides of the strait is worlds apart.
Therefore, what the DPP authorities really need to do is to improve cross-strait relations, rather than spend the hard money of the Taiwan people to buy some outdated weapons and push Taiwan into crisis. As Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said, the DPP authorities will not succeed in "using force to seek independence" and will only undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and bring even greater disasters to the people of Taiwan.