Washington will sell $90 million worth of anti-ship missiles to Taiwan, ending what some analysts said has been a U.S. freeze on arms sales that was designed to ease cross-strait tension between China and Taiwan.
The Department of Defense has given the go-ahead for the purchase of 60 Harpoon Air Launch missiles made by McDonnell Douglas Corp. for delivery in 2009, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported Wednesday.
The announcement comes at a time of improved relations between China and Taiwan. Since taking office in May, Taiwanese President Ma Ying- jeou has pledged to improve economic and political relations with China even as he has promised to maintain the island's defense capabilities.
The Harpoon missile deal is in addition to a $12-billion arms package sought for Taiwan that has been stalled for years.
"This sends a message that Washington is committed to Taiwan's defense," said Andrew Yang, secretary-general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, a think tank in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital. "And with some sort of framework for improved cross-strait relations under consideration, Taiwan needs to bargain from a position of strength."