Officials in Washington insist the decision does not reflect a broader change in policy
The US government has approved an $80 million arms transfer to Taiwan under a program normally reserved for sovereign nations – a move likely to anger Beijing, which considers the island part of its own territory.
The State Department informed relevant lawmakers of the upcoming weapons sale on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press and Reuters, which obtained a copy of the congressional notification.
The transfer “will be used to strengthen Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities through joint and combined defense capability and enhanced maritime domain awareness and maritime security capability,” the department said, without naming any particular systems.
Though prior deals with Taipei have been carried out under different export authorities, the latest transfer is slated to go through the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program. Past FMF sales have largely been made to full-fledged nation states, with the sole exception of the African Union, and language used in the new notification could imply sovereignty for Taiwan, a stance China is unlikely to accept.
Beijing views Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory, deeming it a province in rebellion while claiming the right to reunify with the territory by force should it declare independence. Washington does not openly recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state, but the US has long kept ties with the island, including billions in military sales over the decades.
However, while China is sure to oppose any suggestion of Taiwanese sovereignty, unnamed State Department officials told multiple outlets that the new sale does not reflect a shift in US policy.
“The United States has provided Foreign Military Sales (FMS) to Taiwan for years. FMF simply enables eligible partner nations to purchase US defense articles, services, and training through either FMS or, for a limited number of countries, through the foreign military financing of direct commercial contracts (FMF/DCC) program,” two US officials told the AP.
Republican Congressman Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, confirmed the notification in a statement later on Wednesday, praising President Joe Biden for “finally” approving FMF for Taiwan.
“These weapons will not only help Taiwan and protect other democracies in the region, but also strengthen the US deterrence posture and ensure our national security from an increasingly aggressive [Chinese Communist Party],” he said.
Though the State Department did not specify what weapons would be sent under the $80 million deal, it said the transfer could include “air and coastal defense systems, armored vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, drones, ballistic missile and cyber defenses” and communications gear, the AP reported, adding that funds may also be used to cover training for Taiwan’s military.