The U.S. is sending Taiwan $345 million in security assistance as part of a long-awaited aid package meant to help the island defend itself from a potential invasion by China.
The announcement from the White House on Friday said the aid, going to Taiwan as part of a drawdown from existing U.S. weapons stocks, will include “defense articles and services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training.”
Word of the drawdown came as U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken were in Brisbane, Australia, meeting with their Australian counterparts for the 33rd annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations.
Speaking to reporters in Brisbane, Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Martin Meiners said the package “includes self-defense capabilities that Taiwan will be able to use to build to bolster deterrence now and in the future.”
Systems included in the package “address critical defensive stockpiles, multidomain awareness, anti-armor and air defense capabilities,” he said.
Some media reports have quoted anonymous U.S. defense officials as saying the aid package also includes MQ-9 Reaper drones. Taiwan has previously bought MQ-9s from the U.S.
Pentagon officials declined to say how soon items in the package would arrive in Taiwan but said that they were “working expeditiously” to deliver the systems.
Meiners said the announcement of the package did not indicate any new or emerging threats to Taiwan. And unlike similar security assistance packages done under the presidential drawdown authority for Ukraine, this aid package does not require the declaration of an emergency.
Meiners also said the aid package to Taiwan would not affect ongoing U.S. assistance to Ukraine.
U.S. military and intelligence officials have said Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the Chinese military to be ready to launch an invasion to reunify Taiwan with China by 2027.
“I wouldn’t underestimate President Xi’s determination to assert China’s control, the People’s Republic of China’s control, over Taiwan,” CIA Director William Burns said at a security forum earlier this month in Aspen, Colorado.
VOA has reached out to the Chinese Embassy in Washington for comment.
Speaking at the same conference as Burns, China’s ambassador to the United States, Xie Feng, insisted Beijing wants a peaceful reunification with Taiwan.
“No one is more eager or sincere than China to see a peaceful solution,” Xie said, though he said what he called Taiwanese separatists were taking actions that only serve to destabilize the situation with U.S. support.
“The first and foremost thing we should bear in mind is that Taiwan is China’s Taiwan,” he added.
Congress has authorized the U.S. to send Taiwan up to $1 billion in security assistance through the presidential drawdown authority this fiscal year.
Defense Secretary Austin has previously said he intends to use all the drawdown authority to support Taiwan.
“The administration continues to review Taiwan’s self-defense requirements and we will continue to assess the best authority to meet these requirements going forward,” said Meiners. “We have no further assistance to announce today.”
There had been expectations and hopes among some U.S. lawmakers that the White House would rush the aid package to Taiwan, given what they and defense officials see as increasingly aggressive behavior from China.
Defense officials, though, said the package took time to put together because it required “substantial coordination with multiple U.S. government stakeholders, because this was the first PDA [presidential drawdown authority] package for Taiwan.”
The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Republican Michael McCaul, praised the package as “much-needed … as Communist China eyes further aggression.”
But he criticized President Joe Biden and his administration for not sending it sooner.
“This administration’s repeated fear of escalation in providing critical weapon systems — in the midst of a great power competition — has only served to embolden Chairman Xi and his unholy alliance,” McCaul said in a statement. “The U.S. must remain committed to providing necessary defense articles to enable Taiwan in maintaining deterrence and self-defense capability.”