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Defense Secretary Mark Esper meets with South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

UPDATED 2:13 PM PT – Thursday, July 21, 2022

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the US needs to do a better job in approving arms sales to Taiwan. Esper made the remark on Thursday in Taiwan after recently meeting with Taiwan’s president and also said he would relay the island’s concern to Washington D.C. Taiwan has expressed frustration over the speed of weapons deliveries as China has ramped up military pressure on the island. Some of the weapons on Taiwan’s wish list are javelin-anti tank missiles and stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

The missiles are in great demand in Ukraine where they have been keeping Russian aircraft at bay, but US supplies have shrunk and producing more of the anti-aircraft weapons has faced significant hurdles due to limited manufacturing capacity.

Esper visited Taiwan under the auspices of the Atlantic Council think-tank where he had meetings with senior leaders, including President Tsai Ing-wen. He said he did not get the sense Taiwanese officials were frustrated at what arms were on offer from Washington.

“I didn’t pick up any frustration other than the speed at which we conduct arms sales,” he said.

The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but has also been prodding the government to focus more on asymmetric warfare. This is where a smaller force employs unconventional tactics against a larger enemy using more mobile weapons to make the island harder to attack, something Tsai has said she is prioritizing. Esper said Taiwan was never going to be able to match China in terms of conventional power and Taiwan should be studying how Ukraine has fought Russia using asymmetric strategies.

He believes Taiwan is concerned about supply chain issues affecting the delivery of arms.

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