US to Sell 400 US Anti-Ship Harpoon Missiles to Taiwan as China Threat Rises

Taiwan is ramping up its arsenal by adding some 400 land-launched Harpoon missiles from the US even as the Chinese invasion threat is looming.

According to a Bloomberg News report that cited informed sources, the US Naval Air Systems Command has entered into a contract with Boeing on behalf of Taiwan. Under the terms of the contract, Taiwan will receive for the first time the mobile, land-launched version of Harpoon missiles. Taipei already possesses the hip-launched version of the US missile.

Harpoon missile
Harpoon missile being fired Wikimedia Commons

Increasing Threat to Taiwan

The news assumes significance in the face of increasing Chinese threat to Taiwan's independence and democratic systems. The Chinese military carried out its biggest armed drill around Taiwan this month. More than 70 Chinese fighter jets breached Taiwan's air identification zone in PLA's show of strength.

The military drill followed signs of increasing US cooperation and support for Taiwan. Earlier this month, US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met visiting Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in California despite the stern warning from China to not do so. The Chinese foreign ministry had strongly condemned the meeting between Tsai and McCarthy. "China will take firm and forceful measures to firmly safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity," the ministry said.

Meeting With Tsai

US Republican politicians had pitched for the sale of Harpoon missiles to Taiwan during President Tsai's visit. According to a Reuters report, Mike Gallagher, Republican chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, said after the meeting with Tsai that the US would prioritize weapons delivery to Taiwan and would deliver Harpoon missiles to Taipei ahead of scheduled deliveries to Saudi Arabia.

US-Taiwan Arms Sale
Under the arms sale, Taiwan will get 40 new M109 self-propelled howitzers and almost 1,700 kits to convert projectiles into more precise GPS-guided munitions Twitter

Reports said late last year the US was selling weapons worth $1.1 billion to Taiwan. The proposed sale included up to 60 anti-ship missiles and up to 100 air-to-air missiles. The Supersonic Sidewinder missiles to be delivered were equipped with an infrared heat-seeking guidance system which allows pilots to aim at targets with their helmet displays.

Taiwan President Tsai apologises to indigenous people, promises to look after their interest
President Tsai Ing-wen Reuters

US Support

China considers self-ruling Taiwan as a rogue regime and vows that it will reunify the territory eventually. China has not ruled out using military force to reunify the island to the mainland. Beijing, which uses all diplomatic powers to isolate Taiwan in the international space, sees the US support to Taipei as an affront on its own territorial integrity.