Congress seeks to rapidly arm Taiwan as Chinese threat grows

Suspension

Recognizing the lessons of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Congress is pushing to arm and train Taiwan in advance of a potential military attack by China, but whether help materializes may depend on President Biden himself.

Deliberations on an unprecedented package of billions of dollars in military aid to the island’s autonomous democracy come as Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping meet in Bali on Monday, with maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, a major topic of discussion.

The bipartisan effort, the officials said, would enable the US military to immediately immerse itself in its stockpile of weapons like Javelins and Stingers — something that is widely done only for Ukraine, the officials said — and provide arms for the first time to Taiwan through the foreign military financing program, which is paid for. by the United States.

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

The idea is basically to do to Taipei what is being done to Kiev — but before bullets start flying, lawmakers said.

“One of the lessons from Ukraine is that you need to arm your partners before you start shooting, and that gives you the best chance of avoiding war in the first place,” said Representative Mike Gallagher (R-wy). Navy serving on the Armed Services Committee.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in September Bloomberg TV Show It “remains a clear threat of a possible military emergency around Taiwan.”

Blinken says China plans to seize Taiwan on a “much faster schedule”

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate support provisions to arm Taipei, but it is not clear whether lawmakers who control the money chains – appropriations committees – are convinced of the need to allocate the money.

Currently there is no money for this package in the 2023 budget proposal that Congress is working to pass, and if appropriators do not find cuts to cover arms assistance, Biden will have to submit an emergency request to fund spending for Taiwan and submit. Congressional aides say why this is necessary.

Administration officials declined to say whether they would do so.

“Our engagement with Congress has focused on ensuring that the legislation moving forward is clearly consistent with our policy framework that has helped maintain peace and stability throughout [Taiwan] A senior US administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said, like many others.

Congressional aides said the aid package, details of which are now being finalized in the National Defense Authorization Act that must pass, was drafted with input from the White House. It would allow Taiwan to be supplied annually with $1 billion in US stockpiled munitions – the so-called “Presidential Withdrawal Authority” – and up to $2 billion in arms per year for five years paid in US tax dollars. Only Israel gets more on an annual basis.

Congressional advocates say the assistance would be consistent with US obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act, which states that US policy is to provide Taiwan with weapons to enable it to defend itself.

Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Armed Services Committee, said the goal was “to make the Taiwanese a formidable military force that can defend itself, like the Ukrainians, or at least make it very difficult for the People’s Liberation Army to attack them.”

But skeptics question whether the aid will boost Taiwan’s defense capabilities in the near term.

The proposed help comes at a difficult time. China intensified its provocative military exercises in the waters and skies near Taiwan following an August visit to Taipei by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). It also recently concluded the 20th Communist Party Congress, where Xi secured an unprecedented third term as party general secretary and consolidated his iron grip on power.

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

The Chinese Communist Party has given Xi an endless base for power projection

US military leaders have been warning for years about the growing Chinese threat to the region. In March 2021, Admiral Philip S. Davidson, the head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, in his Senate testimony, noted a series of troubling actions taken by China: a rapid and massive military build-up of ships and aircraft and long-range missile campaigns in Hong Kong. Xinjiang and Tibet; border clashes with India; and the militarization of islands in the disputed South China Sea.

China has long said that it wants to achieve superpower status by its centenary in 2049. “Taiwan” Davidson said in March 2021“Obviously one of their ambitions was before then, and I think the threat emerged during this decade, in fact, in the next six years.”

His remarks caused an uproar, with some observers interpreting them to mean the conquest of China by 2027.

In an interview, Davidson said that while China could launch an attack, there were other ways Beijing could put pressure on Taiwan. “It could be blockades, missile barrages, and deep cyber attacks on Taiwan’s infrastructure,” he said. “I think this is a decade of worry, and I’m still worried about the next six years.”

Senator Sullivan, a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, said China’s military takeover or blockade of Taiwan would do “tremendous” damage to the global economy, particularly as it would affect the global supply chain for computer chips. Taiwan is the world’s leading supplier of high-end artificial intelligence-enabled chips and supercomputers.

The administration, which seeks “responsible management” of its relationship with Beijing, is treading carefully when it comes to Taiwan. When Pelosi planned to travel to Taiwan in August, the Biden administration went to great lengths behind the scenes, arguing that a visit to such a senior US official so close to the party convention would be seen as a provocation and an insult to Beijing. However, when Xi himself asked Biden to find a way to dissuade it, Biden said he could not abide, because Congress was an independent branch of government.

Shortly after Pelosi’s visit, Beijing imposed sanctions on some of its trade with Taiwan and stepped up military exercises in the waters around the island. It simulated sieges and repeatedly sent planes across the “midline”, An unofficial barrier in the strait that divides Taiwan and the Chinese mainland has for decades been seen as a stabilizing advantage – actions analysts see as a change in the status quo by Beijing.

Washington followed up by announcing the start of talks on a formal trade agreement with Taiwan, and in September announced its intention to sell $1.1 billion worth of arms to Taipei. This package includes Harpoon anti-ship missiles and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. However, these sales generally take several years to deliver due to the larger structural challenges arising from how to complete foreign military sales.

Biden says US forces will defend Taiwan in case of China attack

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

The advantage of pulling power, said an aide, is speed — at least for weapons currently in American stocks, including shoulder-mounted anti-tank Stingers and anti-ship cruise missiles.

One of the main differences with Ukraine is that Taiwan, as an island, will be difficult to resupply in any conflict, and can basically fight only with the weapons it has when the conflict begins. “Increasing and stockpiling the largest number of critical munitions to Taiwan — and west of the IDL in general — is our best chance to maintain peace and make Xi Jinping think twice,” Gallagher said.

However, the debate over whether to fund the military assistance package remains unresolved.

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

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

This bill, co-sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (DN.J.) and taxonomy member James E. Risch (R-Idaho), for example, called for Taiwan to be designated a “key non-NATO ally” for the purpose of expediting arms sales and to rename Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington from the “Office of the Economic and Cultural Representative in Taipei” to the “Taiwan Representative Office Which seems more formal.

The White House lobbied hard to remove or relax these provisions, but, congressional aides said, they offered guidance on the military assistance portion.

“There are elements of this legislation in terms of how we can enhance our security assistance to Taiwan that are very effective and robust, that will improve Taiwan’s security,” Jake Sullivan told financier David Rubinstein in a Bloomberg podcast in September. “There are other elements of concern to us.”

Beijing’s aggressive military maneuvers have helped cement the bipartisan ranks in Congress. “We are in the final stages of negotiations,” Menendez said. But allowing billions in military aid alone will not be enough. Both Washington and Taipei will need to continue to take steps to ensure that the right capabilities are delivered at the right time.”

Leaders of both houses expressed confidence that the measures would be passed. The Democratic House is committed to helping Taiwan defend itself against aggression from the United States [People’s Republic of China]Pelosi’s spokeswoman, Shana Mansbach.

“This legislation will enhance military cooperation with Taiwan and show that the United States will not stand idly by while President Xi seeks to isolate and coerce Taiwan,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it was grateful for congressional efforts to bolster the island’s defenses. “It is our responsibility to ensure national security, and only after we can rely 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 arm and train Taiwan, the United States needs to bolster diplomatic, economic and military capabilities in the region. “Our traditional deterrent is eroding,” he said. “The main reason is the incredible growth of China’s air and navy, its missile forces, its nuclear program, and the development of weapons such as hypersonic missiles.”

“If Xi can pull the curtain and see what the United States looks like in the region, economically, diplomatically and militarily,” Davidson said, “and sees American engagement and a strong military,” he would have to say, “No, I don’t want to mess with that,” and the curtain closed. This is what winning looks like.”

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

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