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International relations

US approves possible $2.2bn arm sale to Taiwan, testing Beijing

Weapons include 108 tanks and 250 missiles

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The U.S. State Department has approved the possible sale to Taiwan of M1A2T Abrams tanks, Stinger missiles and related equipment at an estimated value of $2.2 billion, the Pentagon said on Monday, despite Chinese criticism of the deal.

China's Foreign Ministry said last month when the possible sale was first reported that it was seriously concerned about U.S. arms sales to self-ruled Taiwan, and it urged the United States to halt the sales to avoid harming bilateral ties.

The sale of the weapons requested by Taiwan, including 108 General Dynamics Corp M1A2T Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles, would not alter the basic military balance in the region, the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.

DSCA notified Congress on Monday of the possible arms sale, which it said could also include mounted machine guns, ammunition, Hercules armored vehicles for recovering inoperative tanks, heavy equipment transporters and related support.

Reuters reported last month that an informal notification of the proposed sale had been sent to the U.S. Congress.

The United States is the main arms supplier to Taiwan, which China deems a renegade province. Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

Taiwan's Presidential Office expressed "sincere gratitude" to the U.S. government for the arms sale.

"Taiwan will speed up investment on defense and continue to deepen security ties with the United States and countries with similar ideas," Chang Tun-han, a spokesman for Taiwan's president, said in a statement.

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

Taiwan's Defense Ministry confirmed it had requested those weapons and that the request was proceeding normally.

The U.S. commitment to providing Taiwan with the weapons to defend itself helps Taipei's military raise its combat abilities, consolidates the Taiwan-U.S. security partnership and ensures Taiwan's security, the ministry said last month in a statement.

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