As the US has signed multiple defence deals with Taiwan, an island considered by Beijing as a renegade province, China is now arming “America’s greatest enemy”, Venezuela.
The Trump administration has left no stone unturned to arm the island, further igniting its battle with China. In August, President Trump approved a sale of 66 new F-16s following the approval for the sale of 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks, stinger missiles and other equipment to Taipei. The latest sale includes an all-weather, over-the-horizon, anti-ship missile Harpoon missiles worth $2.4 billion.
Although Beijing has been constantly warning against these arms deals, it hasn’t deterred Taipei. China has now found another way to irk the US, by arming its Latin adversary, Venezuela.
While China has been the biggest creditor for Caracas, with increasing political and economic uncertainty, there has been no new lines of credit in recent years. But now with US-China ties at an all-time low, it might push Beijing to ardently support Caracas by supplying weapons and arms.
Following the sanctions by the US on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro government, Caracas turned to Russia and China to acquire arms and weapons.
While Moscow has supplied advanced weapons earlier to Venezuela, China has only supplied small arms and general equipment. Now amid a plummeting economy and the global pandemic, Caracas has decided to arm itself with Chinese weaponry.
China also benefits from Venezuelan oil as it is a long-standing buyer. According to a Reuters report, last year, China replaced the United States as the No. 1 importer of oil from Venezuela, yet another front in the heated rivalry between Washington and Beijing.
In the first six months of 2019, it imported an average of 350,000 barrels per day of crude from Venezuela.
Tenemos una FANB apegada a la constitucionalidad, con absoluta moral combativa, preparada y equipada para garantizar la Paz y la defensa de la integridad territorial de la Patria. ¡Venezuela Es y Será Siempre Inexpugnable! pic.twitter.com/jFpiaMHwHk
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) September 26, 2020
Recently, a propaganda video released by the Venezuelan government featured the Chinese C-802A, a subsonic anti-ship cruise missile. The video in Spanish shows a C-802A launching from a warship.
Reportedly, the acquisition of the Chinese missiles was announced in the capital city of Caracas during the commemoration of the 15th anniversary of Venezuela’s Strategic Command Operations.
During the commemoration ceremony, Maduro announced to develop its own defence equipment in the country.
“We have everything we need to create our own system of weaponry, while continuing cooperation with Russia, China, Cuba, Iran, and the entire world, we will continue receiving from them scientific, technological, weapons-related, [and] of course, strategic assistance, but we must move toward independence,” Maduro stressed during his speech.
However, H I Sutton for USNI News reported that the video footage of the missile used in Maduro’s tweet is taken from the Royal Thai Navy test launch of the C-802A missile. The launch is from Thai Navy’s frigate HTMS Kraburi and can be seen in the video below:
Sutton further noted that the missiles are likely to equip Venezuela’s Guaiquerí-class patrol boats, citing open sources.
“These are Spanish built Avante 2200 combatants and were delivered without anti-ship missiles,” he explained. “This makes sense because in June 2017 the Venezuelan Navy was taking steps to equip two unspecified offshore patrol vessels with the missile at the sum of $2.9 million. The Venezuelan Navy has three Guaiquerí class ships, so it is possible that one will be left without missiles.”
Caracas also shares cordial ties with Tehran. Apart from arms, Iran is also actively enhancing trade ties with Venezuela.
Defying the US Sanctions, Iran supplied gasoline to the South American country. Even though Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves but due to corruption and mismanagement, the country’s production of gasoline has crashed in the last two decades.
The US had imposed sanctions on Iran and Venezuela – two nations it has identified as “America’s greatest enemies”. The appeals by the United Nations, to withdraw such harsh economic sanctions on both the nations, when the world is fighting a pandemic has landed on deaf ears.
The US Justice Department has also indited Maduro and several of his high ranking officials in his government of drug trafficking and money laundering. The Trump administration had also offered a $15 million bounty for his arrest.
While it is hard to say how the failing economy of Venezuela will afford the Chinese missiles, Beijing’s oil requirements can help to create a barter benefiting both countries.