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19 May, 2023 09:28

Taiwan could pay ‘unthinkable’ price for US weapons – ex-defense chief

A former Taipei official urges caution over the Pentagon’s plan to give “significant security assistance” free of charge
Taiwan could pay ‘unthinkable’ price for US weapons – ex-defense chief

Taiwan could face dire ramifications if it accepts free weapons from the US amid a stand-off with Beijing, a former defense minister of the self-governing island warned on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters, Feng Shih-kuan, who served as Taiwan’s defense minister from 2016 to 2018, was asked to comment on a statement by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who confirmed this week that Washington would “soon provide significant additional security assistance to Taiwan” as part of the same emergency program used to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.

“If you suddenly receive such free aid, you need to pay a certain unthinkable price,” the ex-minister said, without elaborating.

When pressed to explain whether he meant war between Taiwan and Beijing, Feng said he believed “we would not be that stupid, and that there should be some choices.”

On Monday, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng stated that the island was negotiating with the Pentagon on receiving weapons worth $500 million, which would be free of charge and “not deducted from the purchase list which has been delayed by the US”. He also clarified that the arms package would “include missiles and some logistic services to help train our soldiers.”

Meanwhile, an unnamed Taiwanese military source told the South China Morning Post that the US military aid would include Stinger portable air defense systems, TOW 2B Aero and Javelin anti-tank missiles.

In addition to this, in recent years Washington has signed a number of weapons deals with Taipei, including a 2019 agreement worth $8 billion to provide the self-governing island with 66 F-16V fighters, which was delayed due to supply chain disruptions, according to Taiwan’s defense ministry.

China, which views the island as a part of its sovereign territory, has repeatedly condemned US arms supplies to Taipei, claiming that such moves turn the territory into “a powder keg” and warning of “consequences” for those who interfere in Beijing’s internal affairs.