The Obama administration has agreed to sell a new package of arms to Taiwan in a move that is expected to be met with an angry response from China, according to U.S. officials.
The long-delayed arms package will include offers of sales of UH-60 Black Hawk military helicopters and additional Patriot PAC-3 missile defenses, but not additional F-16 jets that the island’s government has sought to modernize its air forces, according to congressional and administration officials.
Additionally, the Taiwanese military will be offered defense communications equipment, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
One official familiar with the discussions said the F-16 sale was rejected as “too provocative” to the Chinese.
A Taiwan diplomatic source said the F-16s were needed to replace aging warplanes and because the production line for the jet could be closed soon.
The last major arms package offered to Taiwan was announced in October 2008 and triggered China’s severing of military relations with the Pentagon, a centerpiece of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ policy of engagement with Beijing. Military ties have resumed gradually, but remain strained.
Chinese government spokesmen have said repeatedly that U.S. support for Taiwan remains the most significant cause of friction between Washington and Beijing.
A formal notification to Congress is expected in the next several days, but Pentagon officials verbally notified congressional leaders in the past several days. Officials confirmed the new arms package after it was first reported by the Associated Press.
The Black Hawks were requested before the October arms sale package, which included Apache attack helicopters and Patriot PAC-3s that were part of a $6.5 billion deal.
China’s military buildup, according to the Pentagon’s report to Congress last year, includes development of new advanced ballistic and cruise missiles that would be used to attack U.S. Navy warships if they were called on to defend Taiwan from a mainland attack.
China has deployed more than 1,000 missiles within striking distance of Taiwan and despite improved relations between Taiwan and China, China’s government has refused requests by the Taipei government to withdraw some of the missiles as a goodwill gesture.
China and the United States remain at odds over U.S. arms sales to the island nation that Beijing views as a breakaway province.
The United States, under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, is authorized to sell defensive weapons to Taiwan and also to defend the island should the mainland launch an attack.
Chinese nationalists fled the mainland to Taiwan during a civil war between Communists and nationalists. China has said that it is willing to use force to retake the island but that it prefers to reunite peacefully.
The law was passed after the United States switched formal diplomatic recognition from the island to the mainland.
China opposes the arms sales and has stated that the weapons transfers violate the three U.S.-China communiques, one of which says arms sales are supposed to end.
President Obama issued a statement in October 2008, when he was a candidate for president, supporting the arms sales.
The new arms are part of a U.S. offer to supply a total of $11 million in weapons and military equipment that was first offered under President George W. Bush in 2001.
The weapons announcements have been made periodically in an effort to limit the political fallout and to avoid upsetting the Chinese, the officials said.