The New York Times News Service, in a report published in the Globe and Mail, reports that “The Trump administration is pushing the sale of seven large packages of weapons to Taiwan, including long-range missiles that would allow Taiwanese jets to hit distant Chinese targets in the event of a conflict, say officials familiar with the proposals … [and] … If approved by Congress, the packages, valued in the billions, would be one of the largest weapons transfers in recent years to Taiwan. The administration plans to informally notify lawmakers of the sales within weeks.“
The report reminds us that “By law, the U.S. government is required to provide weapons of a defensive nature to Taiwan, a self-governing, democratic island.” The American action comes as “China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, has escalated its military activity near the island after Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, won reelection in January by beating a candidate viewed as friendlier to Beijing.“
“Some administration officials,” the report explains “see bolstering Taiwan as an important part of creating a broader military counterweight to China in Asia. Taiwan has strong bipartisan support in Congress, so administration officials expect lawmakers to approve the arms sales … [and] … Relations between the United States and China have plummeted to their lowest point in decades, as the two nations openly challenge each other on a wide range of issues, including trade, technology, diplomatic relations and military dominance of Asia.“
The report says that “The most sensitive weapon system of the proposed packages to Taiwan is an air-to-ground missile, the AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER, made by Boeing …
… Because of its range, it can be fired by jets flying beyond the reach of China’s air defense system. The missiles could hit targets on the Chinese mainland or at sea, including warships trying to cross the Taiwan Strait. The proposed sale of the missile, which is likely to cause concern among Chinese military officials, has not been previously reported … [and] … The missiles can be used with F-16 fighter jets that the United States has sold Taiwan.“
China will, certainly, complain, with some reason, that an advanced stand off precision-guided, air-launched cruise missile doesn’t seem to fit very neatly into the category of “weapons of a defensive nature.” But my guess is that this sale will have broad, bi-partisan support in the USA. Even though Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden remains critical of President Trump’s trade war with China, as do I, he has shifted his position, markedly, in the last year. China’s hard-line “wolf-warrior diplomacy” is contentious and, in my opinion, it seems to be backfiring, especially in Europe.
But, no matter how much popular support this move may have in the US-led West, there can be no doubt that it represents a significant “warming” of Cold War 2.0. Canada’s official position should be cautiously supportive of any actions to protect democracy in the world.
Domestically, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole should speak out in full support of protecting Taiwan without ever (specifically) mentioning any individual weapon system. (He’s retired from the Canadian Forces 20 years ago, he can, correctly, claim to be “out of the loop” on the capabilities and limitations of individual weapons systems and, if pressed by an unfriendly journalist, he can claim that missiles, even cruise missiles are neither offensive or defensive ~ that distinction depends on the operational scenario in which they are used.)