HONG KONG (REUTERS) – China has demanded that the United States immediately cancel its latest arms sale to Taiwan, the Chinese state broadcaster reported on Monday (July 18), citing the country’s Ministry of National Defence.

The Pentagon said last Friday that the US State Department had approved the potential sale of military technical assistance to Taiwan worth an estimated US$108 million (S$151 million).

China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and the democratically governed island has complained of increased military pressure from Beijing to try and force it to accept its sovereignty.

The United States has only unofficial relations with Taipei.

But US law requires Washington to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, and President Joe Biden’s administration has vowed to step up engagement with the island.

Taiwan requested the latest assistance, including spare and repair parts for tanks and combat vehicles, and US government and contractor technical and logistical support, the Pentagon had said.

“The proposed sale will contribute to the sustainment of the recipient’s vehicles, small arms, combat weapon systems, and logistical support items, enhancing its ability to meet current and future threats,” the Pentagon’s Defence Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement last Friday.

It would also enhance Taiwan’s military interoperability with the United States and other allies, and the island’s armed forces would have no difficulty absorbing the equipment and support, it added.

The State Department notification does not indicate that a contract has been signed or that negotiations have concluded.

However, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said the deal was expected to “become effective” within a month.

Successive US administrations have urged Taiwan to modernise its military to become a “porcupine” that is hard for China to attack, advocating the sale of inexpensive, mobile, and survivable – or “asymmetric” – weapons that could outlast any initial assault by China’s larger military.

Some US business groups, however, have criticised the Biden administration’s Taiwan arms sales policy, arguing it is too restrictive and fails to address challenges posed by China’s military.