TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan will continue to buy arms from the United States with its purchases boosting employment in at least six U.S. states and narrowing the bilateral trade gap, the government has told the United States, in rare public comment sure to anger China, which claims the island as its own.
Taiwan’s military purchases “have boosted the local economy of and employment in states such as Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Utah, Ohio and Pennsylvania,” the government said as part of the public comment process for a 90-day trade review being conducted by the United States.
Companies like Raytheon Co, Lockheed Martin Co, Boeing Co, Sikorsky and BAE Systems PLC have benefited from Taiwan’s purchases of missile defense systems, attack helicopters, fighter jets, and other amphibious assault vehicles, it said.
Taiwan said that despite its own efforts to build up an indigenous defense, “this will not affect our military procurement from the U.S.” and that it would continue to procure goods, including military hardware.
Taiwan and the United States usually keep a low profile on their military exchanges because it angers Beijing, which has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.
The United States is the island’s biggest political ally and is obligated under U.S. law to help Taiwan defend itself.
The 40-page English-language response released by Taiwan’s cabinet late Thursday stated that U.S.-Taiwan ties were a “top priority” and that the island was “open to any possible proposals that will strengthen U.S.-Taiwan trade relations on a fair and mutually-beneficial basis.”
It provided rare detail on the impact to the United States of Taiwan’s military buys and follows President Donald Trump’s calls for allies to pay their fair share of defense costs, reduce trade gaps and boost U.S. jobs.
From 2008 to 2015, Taiwan was the 7th largest source of procurement for military-related goods for the United States and on average military sales have amounted to $2 billion annually, Taiwan said.
It said that trade data accounting for arms sales, and the after-sales services and personnel training that come with it, would further close the overall trade gap between Taiwan and the United States.
In late March, Trump ordered the Commerce Department and the U.S. trade representative to conduct a 90-day review of the causes of massive U.S. trade deficits and U.S. officials have said they plan tougher enforcement of U.S. trade remedy laws and will initiate more unilateral trade deals.
In an interview with Reuters last month, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said she doesn’t rule out purchasing the F-35s, the most expensive and advanced stealth jet in the U.S. arsenal. Her comment drew immediate objection from China’s defense ministry which said China was resolutely opposed to any country selling arms to Taiwan.
Reporting by J.R. Wu; Editing by Michael Perry