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US OKs First Arms Sale for Taiwan Under Program for Nations

(Bloomberg) -- The US for the first time approved the transfer of weapons to Taiwan under a program usually reserved for sovereign states, the State Department said Wednesday.

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The department added that the transfer under the Foreign Military Financing mechanism didn’t reflect a change in policy on the island’s status, according to the Associated Press. China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and has repeatedly protested American arms sales.

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In the past, the US has used other avenues for arms sales to Taiwan that don’t imply statehood.

The Foreign Military Financing mechanism also covers international organizations as well as nations.

In the latest Taiwan package, the State Department approved as much as $80 million to purchase weapons for Taiwan as the island looks to bolster its defenses against China.

Chinese defense ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said Thursday that China “consistently opposes” US moves to sell arms to Taiwan.

“The security of Taiwan depends on the efforts by both sides of the Taiwan Strait under the ‘One China’ principle,” Wu said during a regular press briefing in Beijing, referring to a policy dating back to the 1970s under which the US doesn’t have official relations with Taiwan.

Wu said the arms sales will only “damage the safety and well-beings of the Taiwan people.”

American funds could be used to finance the acquisition and refurbishment of armored and infantry vehicles, artillery systems, drones and counter-drone equipment, communications and individual soldier equipment, as well as requisite training, according to the congressional notification.

Congress last year authorized the administration to provide up to $2 billion in military support for Taiwan, which is separate from the Taiwanese government’s purchase of equipment from US defense contractors.

--With assistance from Jing Li and Jill Disis.

(Updates with China response.)

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