U.S. will provide weapons to Taiwan from existing military stockpiles.
Tanks during the Han Kuang military exercise in Taoyuan, Taiwan, July 26, 2023. I-Hwa Cheng/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Brisbane, Australia -- The United States has announced a historic $345 million military aid package for Taiwan which for the first time will come from existing U.S. military stockpiles instead of purchases through the foreign military sales program, the White House announced Friday.
The announcement is a lesson learned from the U.S. military assistance to Ukraine where U.S.-made weapons are quickly getting to the battleground, but it will also likely rile China -- which considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province.
The Pentagon has signaled for much of the year that it intended to prepare such a passage after Congress authorized $1 billion for military aid to be provided to Taiwan under what is known as a Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA).
The $345 million aid package was announced by the White House in a brief statement issued late Friday afternoon.
"By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 621 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), I hereby delegate to the Secretary of State the authority under section 506(a)(3) of the FAA to direct the drawdown of up to $345 million in defense articles and services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training, to provide assistance to Taiwan," said the statement.
"The drawdown includes self-defense capabilities that Taiwan will be able to use to build to bolster deterrence now and in the future," said Lt. Col. Martin Meiners. "Systems included in the $345 million package address critical defensive stockpiles, multi-domain awareness, anti-armor, and air defense capabilities."
The Associated Press reported Friday, that according to U.S. officials, the aid package includes portable air defense systems, intelligence and surveillance capabilities, firearms and missiles.
Reuters was first to report on Thursday that the new aid package could be announced as early as Friday.
Meiners said the Pentagon would move "expeditiously" to deliver the aid package to Taiwan but would not provide a timeline.
The announcement will likely draw criticism from China which considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province and which has escalated tensions around the island in recent years. That includes demonstrations of its maritime and airborne capabilities as it edged closer to Taiwan territory beyond the Taiwan Strait.
While not a new authority for the U.S. in weapons transactions, the Presidential Drawdown Authority has drawn significant attention after more than $40 billion worth of existing weapons in U.S. stockpiles have been provided to Ukraine since the start of the war.
U.S. officials stressed what they noted was an important distinction in that the Taiwan PDA package is not being done under emergency authorities unlike the aid packages taking place for Ukraine. That difference likely is intended to play down any concerns that the aid package is being prompted by some sort of an emergency situation with regards to Taiwan.
The difference from existing arms sales agreements with Taiwan is that the weapons systems will arrive there in quick order as opposed to having to wait years for them to be built from scratch.
U.S. officials have said previously that a Presidential Drawdown Authority would be in line with the Taiwan Relations Act, the six assurances and the three communiques that guide U.S. policy towards Taiwan and reinforced that on Friday saying the announcement was not a change in policy.
The concept drew the attention of lawmakers who earlier this year authorized the transfer of up to $1 billion in PDA transfers, a move that drew Pentagon support.
"My team is working diligently to make sure that we have the right capabilities in that particular drawdown," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March.
The $1 billion authority is only valid through the end of this fiscal year on September 30.
Asked what would happen to the additional funding that remains in the congressional authority Lt. Col. Meiners said the Biden administration continues "to review Taiwan self-defense requirements, and we will continue to assess the best authority to meet these requirements going forward."
Meiners said the aid package announcement had not been delayed by recent outreach efforts to China with the high-profile visits by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Instead, he said it took time to prepare the first-of-its-kind aid package to Taiwan required a large amount of coordination with multiple U.S. government agencies.
"The administration conducted an intensive review to ensure the package met Taiwan's critical defense needs," said Meiners.
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