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US announces new Taiwan weapons package

July 29, 2023

The US says it will send military aid worth more than $300 million to Taiwan after recent Congressional authorization. However, it did not detail what equipment would be exported, in a move liable to anger China.

Taiwan's military holds drills of the annual Han Kuang military exercises that simulate an anti-landing operations near the coast in New Taipei City, northern Taiwan, Thursday, July 27, 2023.
The announcement came hot on the heels of the annual Han Kuang military exercises in TaiwanImage: Chiang Ying-ying/AP Photo/picture alliance

The US on Friday unveiled a Taiwan weapons aid package worth up to $345 million (roughly €310 million), in a move likely to anger China. 

The Biden administration did not detail what equipment would be included. 

What did the US and Taiwan say about the deal? 

A statement from the White House spoke of a package of "defense articles and services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training, to provide assistance to Taiwan." 

US officials speaking on condition of anonymity when the deal was being prepared had said that Taiwan was keen to acquire US espionage drones among the new equipment, but said that questions about whether they could be adapted appropriately for export in time meant it wasn't clear if they would be included.

The announcement came on the same week as a major annual military exercise in Taiwan, simulating the defense in case of a Chinese invasion.

Two Sikorsky UH-60 "Black Hawk" helicopters approach during the annual Han Kuang military exercises that simulate an attack on an airfield at Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan, Wednesday, July 26, 2023.
Much of Taiwan's military equipment, from 'Black Hawk' helicopters to F-16 jets and more, hails originally from the USImage: Chiang Ying-ying/AP Photo/picture alliance

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense expressed its appreciation early on Saturday, thanking "the US for its firm commitment to Taiwan's security." 

Taiwan's trade office in Washington meanwhile said the US decision to send weapons in this manner provided "an important tool to support Taiwan's self-defense." 

How are the weapons being sourced? 

The White House secured authorization from Congress for up to $1 billion worth of so-called Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA) weapons aid for Taiwan as part of this year's budget, freeing it up for such a step. 

The PDA system has also been used to expedite weapons deliveries to Ukraine.

What differentiates it from more typical arms sales is that the US can send stocks and material from its own reserves, rather than Taiwan ordering new equipment from arms manufacturers for production and then delivery. Supply chain problems tied to the COVID pandemic and other issues have delayed Taiwanese military purchases from the US of late. 

The top US general, Mark Milley, earlier in July called on Washington and its allies to accelerate weapons deliveries to Taiwan to help the island defend itself. 

And Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signaled the upcoming step back in May, telling a Senate panel he was "pleased that the United States will soon provide significant additional security assistance to Taiwan." 

Taiwan's military holds drills of the annual Han Kuang military exercises that simulate an anti-landing operations near the coast in New Taipei City, northern Taiwan, Thursday, July 27, 2023.
The Han Kuang mililtary drills simulated defending attacks on key targets, like a landing on Taiwan's northern shore, or an attack on Taipei's airportImage: Chiang Ying-ying/AP Photo/picture alliance

China has lobbied US to stop military aid

China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and says it intends to reclaim the self-ruled island, if necessary by force. 

It has increased military pressure on Taipei in recent years, increasing naval and aerial activity close to Taiwanese territory. It held two major drills around Taiwan this year, simulating an invasion and blockade of the island.

Beijing has frequently called on the US to halt weapons deliveries to Taipei. 

The US has walked a fine line on the issue for half a century now, ever since it struck up diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China mid way through the Cold War.

Washington recognizes the "One China" principle and has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in deference to Beijing. But the US maintains informal ties with the island and is also Taipei's most important political and military backer.

msh/sri (AFP, Reuters)

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