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Why US ignores China and sells arms to Taiwan

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"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."

Take the Patriots. China now has some 1,400 short-range ballistic missiles and scores of cruise missiles aimed at Taiwan. Lin said two or three Patriots are needed to knock out every Chinese missile; last week's package included 114 Patriots.

"It's a continuation of what we've been asking for, but not a great stride forward for our capabilities," says Mr. Lin.

The Blackhawks may be more significant for disaster relief on the typhoon- and flood-plagued island than for military use, he says. The command-and-control software has long been requested by Taiwan, and, according to Lin, "it doesn't make a huge difference."

Wendell Minnick, Asia bureau chief for Defense News, noted that the 12 Harpoon missiles were for training only.

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