The U.S. is set to announce $345 million in military aid for Taiwan, two U.S. officials said Friday. It would be the Biden administration’s first major package drawing on America’s own stockpiles under a new policy intended to speed up military aid to help Taiwan counter China.
The package includes man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADS, intelligence and surveillance capabilities, firearms and missiles, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters ahead of the announcement.
U.S. lawmakers have been pressuring the Pentagon and White House to speed weapons to Taiwan. The goals are to help it counter China and to deter China from considering attacking, by providing Taipei enough weaponry that it would make the price of invasion too high.
The package is in addition to nearly $19 billion in military sales of F-16s and other major weapons systems that the U.S. has approved for Taiwan. Delivery of those weapons has been hampered by supply chain issues that started during the COVID-19 pandemic and have been exacerbated by the global defense industrial base pressures created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The difference is that this aid is part of a presidential authority approved by Congress in 2022 to draw weapons from current U.S. military stockpiles — so Taiwan will not have to wait for military production and sales. This gets weapons delivered faster than providing funding for new weapons.
The Pentagon has used a similar authority to get billions of dollars worth of munitions to Ukraine.
Taiwan split from China in 1949 amid civil war. Chinese President Xi Jinping maintains China’s right to take over the now self-ruled island, by force if necessary. China has accused the U.S. of turning Taiwan into a “powder keg” through the billions of dollars in weapons sales it has pledged.
The U.S. maintains a “One China” policy under which it does not recognize Taiwan’s formal independence and has no formal diplomatic relations with the island in deference to Beijing. However, U.S. law requires a credible defense for Taiwan and for the U.S. to treat all threats to the island as matters of “grave concern.”
Getting stockpiles of weapons to Taiwan now, before an attack begins, is one of the lessons the U.S. has learned from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Pentagon deputy defense secretary Kathleen Hicks told The Associated Press earlier in 2023.
Ukraine “was more of a cold-start approach than the planned approach we have been working on for Taiwan, and we will apply those lessons,” Hicks said. Efforts to resupply Taiwan after a conflict erupted would be complicated because it is an island, she said.
China regularly sends warships and planes across the center line in the Taiwan Strait that provides a buffer between the sides, as well as into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, in an effort to intimidate the island’s 23 million people and wear down its military capabilities.