The White House on Friday announced a $345 million military aid package for Taiwan, marking a significant escalation in US support for the island.
The US has sold weapons to Taiwan since Washington severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979 but has never financed the purchases or provided arms free of charge.
The $345 million weapons package is being provided through the presidential drawdown authority, the primary way the US has been arming Ukraine. The authority allows President Biden to send weapons directly from US military stockpiles.
The White House said the $345 million includes “defense articles and services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training, to provide assistance to Taiwan.”
The Biden administration did not announce publicly what weapons it was sending to Ukraine, but unnamed US officials speaking to AP said it would include man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), firearms, missiles, and intelligence and surveillance capabilities.
US officials previously told Reuters that the package was expected to include MQ-9 Reaper drones, but it’s not clear if they are being provided. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry thanked the US for the weapons but also did not detail the contents of the arms package.
The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorized $1 billion in PDA for Taiwan, and this marks the first time the administration has drawn from those funds. The move drew a rebuke from Beijing, which is opposed to all US military support for Taiwan.
A spokesman for China’s embassy in Washington said Beijing was “firmly opposed” to military ties between the US and Taiwan. He called on the US to “stop creating new factors that could stoke tensions in the Taiwan Strait.”
China hawks in Congress argue that the US needs to arm Taiwan “to the teeth” to deter Beijing from attacking the island. But China’s actions make clear that the more the US increases support for Taiwan, the more military pressure the island will face.
When President Biden signed the 2023 NDAA into law, which included the PDA and other aid for Taiwan, China launched major military drills around Taiwan directly in response.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office issued a statement Saturday that said the new US military aid for Taiwan was turning the island into a “powder keg” and said it wouldn’t stop Beijing’s goal of “reunification.” China’s policy is that it seeks peaceful reunification but won’t rule out the use of force.
“No matter how much of the ordinary people’s taxpayer money the … Taiwanese separatist forces spend, no matter how many US weapons, it will not shake our resolve to solve the Taiwan problem. Or shake our firm will to realize the reunification of our motherland,” said Chen Binhua, the office’s spokesman.
“Their actions are turning Taiwan into a powder keg and ammunition depot, aggravating the threat of war in the Taiwan Strait,” Chen added.