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US looks to sell billions in weapons to Taiwan

Washington: The United States is pursuing the sale of more than $US2 billion ($2.9 billion) worth of tanks and weapons to Taiwan, four people familiar with the negotiations said, in a move likely to anger China as a trade war between the world's two biggest economies escalates.

An informal notification of the proposed sale has been sent to the US Congress, the sources said on condition of anonymity.

The potential sale includes 108 General Dynamics Corp M1A2 Abrams tanks as well as anti-tank and anti-aircraft munitions, three of the sources said. Taiwan has been interested in refreshing its existing US-made battle tank inventory, which includes M60 Patton tanks.

A US M1A2 Abrams tank.Credit:File

The United States is the main arms supplier to Taiwan, which China deems its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring the self-ruled island under its control.

Taiwan has confirmed it wants to buy more than 100 US tanks, along with air defence and anti-tank missile systems.

The Defence Ministry said it has submitted a letter of request for the Abrams tanks, 1240 TOW anti-armour missiles, 409 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 250 Stinger man-portable air defence systems.

It said the request was proceeding "as normal".

Cavalry dismounts prepare to fire a Javelin Anti-Tank Missile at a target.Credit:File

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said in March the US was responding positively to Taipei's requests for new arms sales to bolster its defences in the face of pressure from China. The US has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide it with the means to defend itself.

China and the US are engaged in a fierce trade war, with clashes over Taiwan and the South China Sea exacerbating tensions.

A spokesman for the US State Department, which oversees foreign military sales, said the government does not comment on or confirm potential or pending arms sales or transfers before they have been formally notified to Congress.

There was no immediate response from Beijing.

China's Defence Minister Wei Fenghe warned the US at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last weekend not to meddle in security disputes over Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the meeting that the US would no longer "tiptoe" around China's behaviour in Asia.

Reuters

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