Congress wants to give arms to Taiwan soon as China’s threat rises

Congress wants to give arms to Taiwan soon as China’s threat rises


In keeping with lessons learned from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Congress is pushing to arm and train Taiwan before any potential military offensive by China, but whether that aid may depend on President Biden himself. .

Discussions on an unprecedented package of billions of dollars in military aid to the self-governing island democracy came as Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met in Bali on Monday, with maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits a top topic of discussion .

Officials said the bipartisan effort would enable the US military to immediately dip into its stock of weapons such as javelins and Stingers – something only largely done for Ukraine – and provide weapons to Taiwan for the first time through a foreign military financing program. to be done. for by the United States.

Through these provisions, Taiwan can receive weapons such as anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-air defense systems, self-explosive drones, naval mines, command-and-control systems, and secure radios.

The idea is essentially to do for Taipei what is being done for Kyiv – but before the bullets fly, lawmakers said.

“One of Ukraine’s lessons is that you need to arm your allies before the shooting starts, and that gives you the best chance of surviving the war in the first place,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Vis.) , said a former Marine who serves on the Armed Services Committee.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in September a bloomberg tv show that it “remains a distinct threat that a military contingency could occur around Taiwan.”

China plans to capture Taiwan on ‘very fast timeline’, says Blinken

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate support provisions dividing Taipei, but it is unclear whether lawmakers governing purse strings – appropriations committees – are convinced of the need to allocate funds.

There is currently no money in the 2023 budget proposal for a package that Congress is working to pass, and if appropriators don’t get cuts to cover arms aid, Biden has to pay spending to Taiwan. To submit an emergency request. Why this matter is necessary, say Congress allies.

Administration officials declined to say whether they would do so.

“Our engagement with Congress has been focused on ensuring that the legislation that goes ahead is clearly in line with our policy framework that has helped maintain peace and stability across the country. [Taiwan] Straits,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, like many others.

Congressional aides said the aid package, the details of which should now pass the National Defense Authorization Act, has been drawn up with White House input. This would allow Taiwan the provision of stockpiled US warships worth $1 billion annually – known as a “presidential drawdown authority” – and up to $2 billion annually for five years, paid with US tax dollars. Weapon. Only Israel gets more on an annual basis.

Congressional advocates say the aid would be in line with the United States’ obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act, which states that it is US policy to provide Taiwan with weapons for its self-defense.

Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) member of the Armed Services Committee stated that the goal is “to make Taiwan a formidable military force that can defend itself like the Ukrainians, or at least make it much harder for the People’s Liberation Army.” to attack them.

But skeptics question whether the aid will advance Taiwan’s defensive capabilities in the near term.

The proposed aid comes at a difficult time. China has intensified provocative military maneuvers in the waters and skies near Taiwan in the wake of a visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Taipei in August. This recently concluded a crucial 20th Communist Party Congress, in which Xi secured an unprecedented third term as party general secretary and cemented his firm grip on power.

Beijing claims Taiwan to be an inseparable part of its territory, and says “peaceful reunification” is its goal. But at last month’s party congress, Xi reiterated his pledge to “never commit to abandon the use of force” to that end, and said he was ready to “take all necessary measures” to do so.

The Communist Party of China handed Xi an endless rule to curtail power

US military leaders have warned for years about China’s growing threat to the region. In March 2021, the then head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Philip S. Davidson, testifying in the Senate, noted a string of related actions taken by China: ships, aircraft and long-range rockets; action in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet; border conflict with India; and the militarization of islands in the disputed South China Sea.

China has long said it wants to achieve great power status by its centenary in 2049. “Taiwan” Davidson said in March 2021“Obviously one of their ambitions is before then, and I think the threat appears during this decade, really, over the next six years.”

His comments caused a stir, with some observers interpreting him as saying that China would invade by 2027.

In an interview, Davidson said that while China can attack, there are other ways Beijing can bring pressure to Taiwan to act. “It could be a blockade, missile barrage, deep cyber attack on Taiwan’s infrastructure,” he said. “I think it’s a decade of worry, and I’m still worried about the next six years.”

Sullivan, a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, said a military takeover or blockade of Taiwan by China would result in “huge” damage to the world economy, especially as it impacts the global supply chain for computer chips. Taiwan is the world’s leading supplier of advanced chips that power artificial intelligence and supercomputers.

The administration, which seeks to “responsibly manage” its relationship with Beijing, treads cautiously when it comes to Taiwan. When Pelosi planned to visit Taiwan in August, the Biden administration made an intense effort behind the scenes, arguing that the visit of a senior US official so close to the party Congress was seen as provocative and an insult to Beijing. will be seen in Still, when Xi himself asked Biden to find a way to dissuade him, Biden said he couldn’t oblige, because Congress was an independent branch of government.

Soon after Pelosi’s visit, Beijing cleared some of its trade with Taiwan and intensified military exercises in the waters surrounding the island. This simulated a blockade and sent jets repeatedly across the “center line”. An informal barrier in the strait dividing Taiwan and the Chinese mainland that was seen for decades as a stagnant feature – actions that analysts see represent a change in the status quo by Beijing.

Washington then announced the start of talks on a formal trade deal with Taiwan and announced its intention to sell $1.1 billion in arms to Taipei in September. That package includes the Harpoon anti-ship missile and the Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. However, such sales typically take several years because of the great structural challenges posed by how foreign military sales are met.

Biden says US troops will defend Taiwan in the event of China attack

Some congressional allies say the use of foreign military funding will not speed up arms deliveries. Others argue that with such a tool, the US government would be able to negotiate transactions more quickly and make decisions about the direction of Taiwan’s defense strategy and how it fits with US military capabilities.

An aide said the advantage of reducing authorization is speed — at least for weapons that are currently in US stockpiles, including shoulder-fired antitank Stingers and anti-ship cruise missiles.

A key difference with Ukraine is that Taiwan, being an island, would be hard to re-supply in a conflict and could essentially only fight back if conflict erupts. “The growing and stockpiling of a number of critical weapons—for Taiwan—and generally west of the international date line—is our best chance to keep the peace and make Xi Jinping think twice,” Gallagher said.

Still, the debate over funding the military aid package remains unresolved.

“We must be clear that we have broad support for any new initiative and what the trade-offs will be, especially at a time when senior Republicans are questioning whether we will maintain our support for Ukraine,” said a Democratic lawmaker. Said familiar with the ongoing discussions.

Congress has traditionally been more fanatical in its support of Taiwan than the presidential administration. The military aid was part of a larger bill, the Taiwan Policy Act, which included several symbolic provisions that the Biden team found objectionable and angered Beijing.

For example, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (DNJ) and ranking member James E. That bill, co-sponsored by Rish (R-Idaho), called for Taiwan to be designated a “major non-NATO ally” for the purpose. To accelerate arms sales and rename the de facto embassy of Taiwan in Washington from “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office” to the more official “Taiwan Representative Office”.

The White House lobbied hard to remove or reduce those provisions, but, congressional aides said, it provided guidance on the military aid portion.

Jake Sullivan told financier David Rubenstein on a Bloomberg podcast in September, “There are elements of that law about how we can strengthen our security assistance to Taiwan that is quite effective and strong, which will improve Taiwan’s security.” “There are other elements that give us some concern.”

Beijing’s aggressive military maneuvers have served to close bipartisan ranks in Congress over the package. “We are in the final stages of negotiations,” Menendez said. “But merely authorizing billions in military aid will not be enough. Both Washington and Taipei must continue to take steps to ensure that the right capabilities are provided in a timely manner. ,

Leaders of both houses expressed confidence that the measures would be passed. “Democratic House Committed to Helping Taiwan Cope with Aggression” [People’s Republic of China]Pelosi spokeswoman Shana Mansbach said.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said, “This law will strengthen military cooperation with Taiwan and show that the United States will not stand as President Xi seeks to isolate and force Taiwan.”

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it was grateful for Congress’ efforts to enhance the island’s security. “It is our responsibility to ensure national security, and only when we can depend on ourselves, can we expect help from others,” spokesman Sun Li-fang said.

Davidson, who retired last year, said that in addition to continuing to help and train Taiwan, the United States needs to strengthen diplomatic, economic and military capabilities in the region. “Our traditional immunity is running out. “The main reason is the astonishing growth in China’s air and sea forces, its rocket forces, its nuclear program, and the development of weapons such as hypersonic missiles.”

Davidson said, “If Xi can pull back the curtain and see what the United States looks like economically, diplomatically and militarily in the region” and sees American engagement and a powerful military, he has to say ‘I don’t want to mess with her,’ and close the curtain. That’s what victory looks like.”

Christian Shepherd and Vic Chiang in Taipei contributed to this report.

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