Taiwan is not seeking to get involved in an arms race with China but does need a credible combat capability, Defence Minister Yen De-fa said on Thursday, after the United States approved a potential $1.8 billion arms sale to the Chinese-claimed island.
Beijing has applied increasing pressure om democratically-ruled Taiwan to accept China’s sovereignty, including by flying fighter jets across the sensitive mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an unofficial buffer.
The latest U.S. arms package includes sensors, missiles and artillery, and further congressional notifications are expected for drones made by General Atomics and land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles, made by Boeing Co, to serve as coastal defence cruise missiles.
Speaking to reporters, Yen thanked the United States and said the sales were to help Taiwan improve their defensive capabilities to deal with the “enemy threat and new situation”.
“This includes a credible combat capability and asymmetric warfare capabilities to strengthen our determination to defend ourselves,” he added.
“This shows the importance attached by the United States to security in the Indo Pacific and Taiwan Strait. We will continue to consolidate our security partnership with the United States.
China is likely to condemn the new weapons sale, as it always does, but Yen said they were not looking for confrontation.
“We will not engage in an arms race with the Chinese Communists. We will put forward requirements and build fully in accordance with the strategic concept of heavy deterrence, defending our position and defensive needs.”
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has made defence modernisation a priority in the face of a rising Chinese threat, particularly “asymmetric warfare” capabilities, which refers to making any attack Chinese attack difficult and costly, for example with smart mines and portable missiles.
Washington, which, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taipei though it is its strongest global backer, has been pushing Taiwan to modernise its military so it can become a “porcupine”, hard for China to attack.