The U.S. State Department has approved a potential sale of $2.2 billion worth of weapons to Taiwan, a move that adds more challenges to China following a trade war and criticism about its suppression of religion.

In an announcement released on Monday, July 8, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the department has made a determination approving a possible foreign military sale to Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO).

The sale includes 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks, 250 Block I -92F MANPAD Stinger missiles, and other related equipment worth estimated $2.22 billion.

This proposed sale is consistent with U.S. law and policy as expressed in Public Law 96-8, the agency said, adding that it would not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The Pentagon also said the proposed arm sale would serve U.S. national, economic, and security interests by supporting Taiwan’s efforts to modernize its armed forces, improve its security, and help maintain political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region.

The sale of Abrams tanks would help Taiwan modernize its main battle tank fleet and enhance its ability to meet current and future regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense.

Taipei government has expressed its gratitude after the Pentagon approved the arms sale, which would be the second this year and the largest among four sales since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, according to South China Morning Post (SCMP).

“The second sale of arms to Taiwan [this year] is strong proof of the robust support of the U.S. government for Taiwan and its defense need,” Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, July 9.

“Situated in the frontline of China’s expanding military ambition, and facing its persistent pressure and threat, our purchase of M1A2T tanks, missiles and other equipment is highly significant and helpful in upgrading our defence capability,” the ministry added.

Marines bombard through a live fire range using M1A1 Abrams tanks in Djibouti, Africa, during a training exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps)

The arms sale approval is expected to trigger objections from China, which often considers Taiwan as a province, though the island has been ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.

Beijing has repeatedly warned the United States against forging ties with or selling weapons to Taiwan.

However, the Trump administration has been seeking to strengthen ties with Taiwan, and not mind that its relations with China would turn worse as the previous administrations had.

Under President Trump, the United States has been also attacking China on other fronts, including trade and religion.

The administration has slapped punitive tariffs on $250 billion of China’s goods over accusations of its theft of intellectual property, forced transfer of technology, cyberhacking, and industrial espionage.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during his sharing highlights of the 2018 International Religious Freedom Report on June 22, publicly criticized China for its intense persecution of many faiths, including Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, and Tibetan Buddhists. He said the Trump administration has been promoting religious freedom like never before in its foreign policy agenda.