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U.S. approves first arms sale to Taiwan as its citizens ready to party

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The Biden administration has approved its first arms sale to Taiwan, a potential $750 million deal, that includes the sale of 40 new M109 self-propelled howitzers and almost 1,700 kits to convert projectiles into more precise GPS-guided munitions, according to a State Department notification to Congress on Wednesday.

The proposed sale must go through a congressional review process and then through negotiations between Taiwan and contractor BAE Systems Plc. which is also providing the U.S. Army with the latest version of the howitzer before a contract is signed.

Although the new proposed sale isn’t especially large in scope or ambitious in the weaponry provided, it is certain to be denounced by China as tensions between the two nations have been simmering for some time

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory and hasn’t ruled out the use of force in the pursuit of unification.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had called his country’s quest to gain control of Taiwan a “historic mission” in a speech marking the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party previously. China’s warplanes had made incursions into the southern part of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone for  87 days in 2020 — more than in the previous five years combined — and have surpassed that number already this year.

The proposed A6-model howitzer sale would beef up Taiwan’s aging inventory of earlier-model M109 self-propelled weapons and improve its capability to blunt a Chinese land invasion. The Precision Guidance Kits would convert 155m projectiles with GPS navigation for greater accuracy. The U.S. Army has deployed similar kits.

Meanwhile, U.S. is getting back into the party mood with a renewed vengeance after more than 18 months of social starvation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, the world’s largest live entertainment company, Live Nation’s Ticketmaster reported one of its best months ever in North America, signaling that Americans are ready to venture outside the home for events even with the new Covid Delta threat looming.

After a year with almost no live shows, the company has had second-quarter earnings that saw revenue climb to $575.9 million, up 677 percent from the same period last year when large gatherings were limited due to pandemic restrictions.

“The momentum for the return to live events has been building every month, with ticket sales and concert attendance pacing faster than expected, underscoring the strength and resiliency of the concert business and live events in general,” CEO Michael Rapino said during the company’s earnings call Tuesday.

The company said that most of its festivals have sold out quickly and average ticket prices are up 10 percent from 2019 levels.

For Ticketmaster, which is owned by Live Nation, June represented its fourth-best month in history in terms of ticket volume. The company said this was driven, in part, by a record number of U.S. concerts being available for purchase.

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