US defense contractors’ trip to Taiwan region ‘provocative,’ may worsen China-US tension: expert
Published: Apr 12, 2023 09:21 PM
US, China, Taiwan island Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

US, China Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The US is planning a trip to send dozens of defense contractors to the island of Taiwan for another round of provocative arm sales, as analysts said this just proves that Washington has no sincerity to ease tensions with China and the regional situation will remain tense or even worsen.

Chinese military said that US defense contractors are just using the shortcomings of island's military industry in the fields of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to cheat the secessionist authorities out of their money. It would have almost no military significance, as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) holds overwhelming advantages against the island's military strength in all fronts. 

Japanese media Nikkei reported on Tuesday that "Around 25 US defense contractor representatives are planning a trip to Taiwan to discuss joint production of drones and ammunition."

Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the "US-Taiwan Business Council" told Nikkei that the trip is expected in early May. The delegation will be headed by Steven Rudder, retired commander of the US Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, and it would mark the first defense industry visit to Taiwan since 2019, the report said.

The delegation is expected to hold talks with people from the defense industry of the island and may also meet with Tsai Ing-wen, regional leader of the island. Hammond-Chambers told the Japanese outlet the goal of the trip is "to promote defense industry cooperation with Taiwan."

Chinese military expert Song Zhongping told the Global Times on Wednesday that "sending such a big delegation of defense contractors means that the US is strengthening its encouragement and support for the secessionist authorities on the island."

It proves that the US has no sincerity to manage the differences with China and Washington will even take more provocative actions to challenge China on the Taiwan question, the most sensitive redline and a core interest of China, said experts. They expect that the tension in Taiwan Straits will continue and it will be more difficult for Washington to seek talks or help from Beijing when the US is suffering from a messy economic situation.  

Hammond-Chambers said Taiwan is interested in airborne, surface, and underwater drones, in addition to ammunition. "The US delegation, which will contain several US defense contractors with drone expertise, will look for areas to provide advanced technology and jointly develop drones" with the relevant companies on the island, the report noted.

With US defense contractors struggling to meet Ukrainian demands for the conflict with Russia, Washington is open to the idea of contractors working with the separatist authorities of Taiwan, Nikkei said.

Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, said the military industrial complex of the US sees huge profits in selling drones after the extraordinary performance of UAVs in Ukraine, and US defense firms will find opportunities to earn money from Taiwan as they know Taiwan is behind in developing drones on its own. 

"In many cases reported by the media, Taiwan-developed drones commissioned in their military forces have frequently crashed or gone missing in their missions," Wei said. US defense firms also find that since the Taiwan authorities have very wishful thinking of "resisting reunification by force," they see an opportunity to cheat money from the island.

Song said this kind of provocative arms sales "will worsen China-US tension, and will also make Taiwan island continue to be a 'cash machine' for the US military industrial complex, but it won't affect the PLA's overwhelming military advantages."

The only thing the PLA needs to pay attention to is to be prepared for the potential military intervention of the US and its allies if the Chinese mainland is forced to reunify the island by force, Song noted.