Riling China, the US's newest $6.4 billion sale includes 60 Blackhawk helicopters, Patriot missiles, and sophisticated command-and-control software.
But the arms do send a political message.
Beijing always objects loudly to US arms sales to the self-ruled island it views as its own. But China has reacted more strongly than usual to this $6.4 billion package, which includes 60 Blackhawk helicopters, Patriot missiles, minesweepers, Harpoon antiship missiles, and sophisticated command-and-control software. And for the first time, it has threatened sanctions against firms involved in the deal, which include Boeing and Sikorsky Aircraft.
"It's not purely a military issue, it's a symbol," says Arthur Ding, secretary-general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies (CCAPS) in Taipei. "It signifies US support for Taiwan's democratic institutions, and for Taiwan this is very important."
Whatever the reason for China's sharper tone, it has little to do with the capabilities of the military gear offered to Taiwan, analysts say. "I don't think they're breakthrough items," says Lin Chong-pin, a professor of strategic studies at Taiwan's Tamkang University. "They're at most maintenance items."