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Oct 28, 2023 | In The News

Taipei Times

A US congressional committee on Thursday questioned the US Navy over what it called “alarming delays” in weapons deliveries to Taiwan, asking why production sometimes languished for months or years after purchasing deals were signed.

Time was running out to deter military action by China toward Taiwan, US Representative Mike Gallagher, chair of the House of Representatives’ Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, and US Representative Young Kim, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Indo Pacific, said in the letter to US Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro.

With more than 340 warships, China possesses the largest naval fleet in the world, and deterring a Chinese invasion of Taiwan “will require turning the island into a porcupine, stockpiled with an arsenal of weapons that can target the Chinese fleet and prevent the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] from establishing a lodgment in Taiwan,” the letter said.

“At this hour of danger, however, when the United States should be arming Taiwan to the maximum to strengthen its defenses and deter Chinese aggression, bureaucratic delays within the Navy are impeding the timely production and delivery of key weapons to Taiwan,” the letter said.

The lawmakers highlighted the need for anti-ship Harpoon and Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) missiles, both of which the US agreed years ago to sell to Taiwan.

It took until April for the navy to enter a contract for production of 400 ground-launched Harpoon missiles to Taiwan, the lawmakers wrote, adding that was two-and-a-half years after the US Department of Defense’s October 2020 announcement of the sale to Taiwan of the weapons, they said.

That risked putting delivery beyond 2027, the year US officials say is China’s target date to be ready to conduct an invasion, they added.

Gallagher and Kim said 10 months after Taiwan signed a letter of acceptance to purchase 60 air-launched Harpoons and 135 SLAM-ER missiles in December last year, the navy still had not asked contractors to submit bids for production.

Such lengthy timelines are not unique to those two systems, they added.

“The inability to supply key weapons at such a consequential moment in our efforts to prevent war is deeply troubling,” they said, asking the navy to clarify deadlines for Harpoon delivery and requests for bids for those missiles, and provide assessments for speeding up contracting and production.

China has repeatedly demanded the US end what Beijing sees as Washington’s provocative support for Taiwan’s military.

The US is Taiwan’s most important arms supplier, and top US military leaders have also acknowledged the need to speed up delivery.

Taiwan has in recent years complained of delays to other US weapon deliveries, such as Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. Taipei has asked the US at times to turn to alternate suppliers or allies to help source equipment.

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