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  • The State Department has approved $2.2 billion (R31 billion) worth of arms sales to Taiwan, the largest military sale since Trump took office.
  • The US has historically backed Taipei, but its latest show of support could threaten the tentative truce between the two superpowers.
  • China has always claimed control of Taiwan but has never ruled it, while the US is committed to help Taiwan defend itself under the Taiwan Relations Act.
  • For more stories, see www.businessinsider.co.za.

The US State Department has approved a $2.2 billion (R31 billion) arms sale to Taiwan, a deal that could threaten a tentative truce struck between the US and China in the countries' trade war.

The Trump administration's largest arms sale so far underscores its commitment to Taiwan, which was formalised in 1971 under the Taiwan Relations Act. The deal comes as tensions between China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, and the US remain high. The two superpowers recently struck a tentative truce to hold off on further escalation in their ongoing trade war and resume negotiations.

"It's a gross interference in China's internal affairs and harms China's sovereignty and security interests," said Geng Shuan, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry, on Tuesday, according to Bloomberg.

"China urges the US to ... immediately cancel the planned arms sale and stop military relations with Taipei to avoid damaging Sino-US relations and harming peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," Geng added, Al Jazeera said.

Beijing has become increasingly annoyed with the Trump administration over its Taipei relations. On Thursday, Taiwan's president Tsai Ing-wen is due to land in New York for a two-day visit. The US has previously granted Taiwan stop-overs but they have generally been much shorter than two days, indicating a change in Washington's approach to Taipei.

Likewise, US administrations have denied or delayed sales of arms to Taiwan. But Trump has very much chosen a different approach, with a more flexible view of Taiwan's needs.

All guns blazing

The deal includes the sale of 108 Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger missiles, and related equipment, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency - which handles foreign arms sales - said on Monday.

However, Taiwan may have misspent its money. Tanks aren't suitable for Taiwanese roads or the mudflats where a Chinese invasion would likely take place, the FT reported, citing analysts.

Critics of the purchase argued electronic warfare should be the priority, in order to upset the early stages of a Chinese attack.

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