Washington is upping the ante on China with what will be interpreted as a new direct frontal assault on the decades-old 'One China' official policy which has preserved the status quo in Taiwan.
Over the past days it's been clear something big was coming, given the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday slammed a planned-for trip later this week of "the highest-level visit by a U.S. cabinet official" to Taipei in forty years, namely led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
For the first time ever, the US moving to sale high-tech military drones to Taiwan, which is sure to unleash fury from Beijing.
"The United States is negotiating the sale of at least four of its large sophisticated aerial drones to Taiwan for the first time, according to six U.S. sources familiar with the negotiations, in a deal that is likely to ratchet up tensions with China," Reuters reports of the details.
Specifically they are SeaGuardian surveillance drones, which will vastly expand the reach far and above beyond the capabilities of Taiwan's current drone fleet. They are said to reach up to 6,000 nautical miles, or 11,100 km.
They are being described as heavily modified versions of the deadly MQ-9 Reaper drones, capable of carrying advanced missiles and targeting technology.
It's not yet been approved by Congress, Reuters reports, but is expected to be:
While the sale of the unmanned aerial vehicles has been tacitly authorized by the State Department, two of the people said, it is not known whether the U.S. officials have approved exporting the drones with weapons attached, one of them said.
It's expected to be formally taken up by US lawmakers as soon as next month.
But no doubt the headlines out of The New York Times will be enough to spark a new round of angry back-and-forth accusations between the US and China, given the already worsening state of relations, and then there's the issue of continued military build-up and tensions in the South China Sea to boot.