The US government has given its approval for an $80 million arms transfer to Taiwan, a move that is likely to anger Beijing, as it considers the island to be part of its own territory. The State Department informed relevant lawmakers about the upcoming weapons sale, which is set to go through the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program. This program is usually reserved for sovereign nations, and the decision to include Taiwan could imply sovereignty for the island, something that China is unlikely to accept.
The transfer of arms is aimed at strengthening Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities, particularly in terms of joint and combined defense capability, enhanced maritime domain awareness, and maritime security capability. However, the State Department did not disclose the specific weapons that would be included in the deal. Previous arms sales to Taiwan have been carried out under different export authorities, but the use of the FMF program this time signals a potential shift in US policy towards the island.
Beijing sees Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory and views it as a province in rebellion. It claims the right to reunify with Taiwan by force if the island declares independence. While the US does not formally recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state, it has maintained close ties with the island and has been providing billions of dollars in military sales over the years.
Unnamed State Department officials have insisted that the arms transfer does not indicate a change in US policy regarding Taiwan. They have emphasized that the US has been providing Foreign Military Sales (FMS) to Taiwan for a long time, and the FMF program simply enables eligible partner nations to purchase US defense articles, services, and training. Republican Congressman Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, welcomed the decision and praised President Joe Biden for finally approving FMF for Taiwan.
The approval of the arms sale to Taiwan comes at a time of heightened tensions between the US and China. The US has been increasingly vocal about its concerns regarding China’s assertiveness in the region and its human rights abuses. The Biden administration has also sought to strengthen its alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region, in order to counter China’s growing influence.
The State Department’s decision to approve the arms transfer is likely to further strain US-China relations. Beijing has previously expressed its strong opposition to any form of arms sales to Taiwan, as it regards such actions as interference in its internal affairs. China has repeatedly warned foreign countries, including the US, against providing military support to Taiwan.
The specific weapons included in the $80 million deal have not been disclosed, but they could potentially include air and coastal defense systems, armored vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, drones, ballistic missile and cyber defenses, as well as communications gear. The funds may also be used to cover training for Taiwan’s military.
Overall, the approval of the arms transfer to Taiwan signals the US government’s commitment to maintaining its relationship with the island and ensuring its ability to defend itself. However, it also raises concerns about the potential for further escalation in the longstanding tensions between the US and China. Both sides will need to carefully manage their differences in order to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control and further destabilizing the region.