WASHINGTON

The US State Department on Wednesday approved the latest in a series of controversial proposed arms sales to Taiwan in a move likely to further vex already-strained relations with China.  

The department gave its preliminary approval to the possible sale of 18 MK-48 Mod6 Advanced Technology Heavy Weight Torpedoes and related equipment valued at roughly $180 million.

The variant of the torpedo being sold to Taiwan includes advanced sonar and technologies to lower detection, including quieting systems, according to manufacturer Raytheon.

Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington requested the purchase, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement. If the sale passes congressional review, it will include the torpedoes, spare parts, support and test equipment, training, and technical and logistical support.

There will not be a third-party supplier for the armaments as they will come directly from the Navy’s stockpiles, according to the agency.

The proposed sale comes on the heels of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulating Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on her recent inauguration, a move that prompted China to warn of “counter-measures” in response.

Undeterred, Pompeo hours later touted Taiwan as maturing “into a model for the world.”

“Despite great pressure from the outside, Taiwan has demonstrated the wisdom of giving people a voice and a choice,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department, indirectly thumbing his nose at China.

Relations between the U.S. and China, which views Taiwan as a renegade territory, have been markedly strained over Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Chinese officials maintain they handled the outbreak as best they could, but Washington has repeatedly accused them of malfeasance, including knowingly misleading the international community about the severity of the virus and the extent of the outbreak within mainland China, as well as a potential cover-up of the virus’ origins.

China considers Taiwan a Chinese province, but Taipei has maintained its independence since 1949. China refuses diplomatic relations with any country that recognizes Taiwan, a move the US stops short of officially.

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