West News Wire: The Pentagon announced on Wednesday that the US State Department has cleared the potential sale of Volcano anti-tank mine-laying systems to Taiwan for an estimated $180 million, despite growing tensions between the independent East Asian island and China.
The packed mine canisters used by the Volcano system, created by the US army in the 1980s, contain several anti-tank mines that are distributed when the canister is ejected.
The possible sale’s primary contractors are Northrop Grumman and Oshkosh Corporation.
According to US law, the executive branch must inform Congress of any proposed arms sales that would exceed a particular threshold. However, the State Department and the Pentagon typically aren’t informed unless Congress have granted them tacit permission to proceed.
The potential deal comes as China ramps up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan to assert its sovereignty claims, including almost daily Chinese air force missions near the island during the past three years. Tensions spiked earlier this year after US Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan despite China’s opposition to the trip. Beijing views Taiwan as a part of China.
On Monday, China sent its largest-ever contingent of planes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the de facto maritime border between the two. A day later, Taiwan extended its mandatory military service duration from four months to a year.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said in a statement that the sale of the Volcano would take effect in about a month and that the system would help boost the island’s “asymmetric warfare” capacity to make its forces more agile.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s frequent military activities near Taiwan have posted severe military threats to us,” the ministry said, adding that continuous US military sales are the “cornerstone of maintaining regional stability and peace”.
The US is Taiwan’s most important international partner and provides most of its arms. China has pledged to take the island by force, if necessary. Taiwan strongly rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claim and says it will defend itself if attacked.