Taiwan's bid to upgrade its defense capabilities suffered a setback as the U.S. informed the island nation that the first batch of weapons would be delayed until 2026, as the first batch of weapons is expected to be ordered by the U.S. The Defense Ministry of Taiwan said it was informed by Washington that the production line is crowded out due to the Ukraine invasion.
Some Taiwanese lawmakers were informed by the Defense Ministry that the US could not supply the first batch of the promised 40 howitzer systems because of the war in Ukraine, according to South China Morning Post.
The Defense Ministry stated that it would continue to communicate with the U.S. on the issue. "We have collaborated with the United States to develop advanced alternatives to meet actual operational needs," the ministry said.
The 60 tonne, armored, self-propelled and self-loading 155 mm howitzer system is a gun with integrated GPS, weather, and other systems. They were part of the $800 m weapons package announced by the U.S. to Ukraine and as many as 90 artillery pieces were sent last week to help Ukraine counter the Russian military offensive in the eastern Donbas region. A small number of Ukrainian forces have begun training on the system, according to reports.
Taiwan's $750 million arms package also includes 1,698 precision guidance kits for munitions, spares, training, ground stations and upgrades for the island's previous generation of howitzers. The move comes after China ramps up military exercises targeting the island, which Beijing considers to be a breakaway province.
The delay in supplying the weapon reflects the changing policies of the U.S., said analysts. According to Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Yuan Wang military science and technology think tank in Beijing, the U.S. commitment to provide weapons to Ukraine could be a reason for the setback but it may also reflect Washington's delicate re-calibration of its Taiwan policies.
I don't think Russia-Ukraine military crisis can absorb large amounts of military resources from the U.S. especially since Ukraine prefers light weapons over heavy weapons like the M 109 howitzer to a degree that the U.S. can no longer provide arms to Taiwan, he told South China Morning Post.
Zhou said that this could be interpreted as the US wanting to cool the warm ties with Taiwan for a while. The Boeing deal went nowhere. He said that this cooling in ties is temporary and tactical and won't change the fundamental cooperation between the two sides.
Liu Weidong, a U.S. affairs analyst from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said this doesn't represent a shift in US policy towards China. The U.S. sees China as a long-term threat and Russia as an immediate and urgent threat. Washington needs to respond quickly to Ukraine needs, such as supplying the latest weapons, in order to push Russia deeper into the war because this task is more imminent, he said.
To stop offering Taiwan some arms doesn't seem to be a strategic shift in US policy towards China, since Taiwan is a place where the US has security assurance. He told South China Morning Post that this is a tactical change because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.