The move is likely to anger Beijing, which claims the self-governing island as its own territory with no right to sovereign relations.
The United States has approved military aid to Taiwan under a program normally designed to help sovereign countries. This is likely to anger China, which claims the self-governing democratic island as its own territory.
The State Department briefed Congress Tuesday on the $80 million package, which compares modestly to recent military sales to Taiwan but marks the first time Washington has provided aid to Taipei under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program provides, which are generally grants or loans to sovereign countries.
The announcement is likely to increase tensions with Beijing, which has not ruled out the use of force to take control of Taiwan.
The US and China have had formal diplomatic ties for 50 years, but Washington remains Taiwan’s biggest supporter. Legislation also requires the island to be supplied with the weapons necessary for its defence, but this is mostly done on a trade basis rather than as direct aid.
The State Department stressed that the very first aid under the FMF does not mean recognizing Taiwan’s sovereignty.
“In line with the Taiwan Relations Act and our long-standing one-China policy, which has not changed, the United States is providing Taiwan with defense goods and services necessary for the country to have sufficient self-defense capabilities,” a said Foreign Ministry spokesman.
“The United States has an enduring interest in cross-strait peace and stability, which are critical to regional and global security and prosperity.”
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said thank you. “The aid will contribute to peace and stability in the region,” it said in a brief statement.
Beijing has ramped up military activity in and around Taiwan in recent years, trying to isolate the island diplomatically since Tsai Ing-wen, who is viewed by China as a “separatist,” was first elected president in 2016. The island is gearing up for its next presidential election in January, and Tsai’s deputy, William Lai, is currently at the helm. Tsai and Lai both say that the people of Taiwan should be the ones who decide their future.
The only other time the US has provided military assistance to a non-nation state under the FMF was to the African Union, an organization of sovereign states based in Ethiopia, according to officials.
The notice, a copy of which was obtained by the Associated Press news agency, did not specify which military equipment or systems would be paid for under the FMF.
It states that the following items could be covered, among others: air and coastal defense systems, armored vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, drones, ballistic missiles and cyber defense systems, as well as advanced communications equipment. It added that protective gear, a range of small, medium and heavy weapon systems, ammunition, and armored and infantry fighting vehicles could also be included.
In addition to equipment, FMF can also be used to support the training of Taiwanese armed forces.
The Reuters news agency quoted a person familiar with the announcement as saying it was to help raise awareness at sea.
The aid requires congressional approval, which is virtually certain given that lawmakers from both parties are largely supportive of Taiwan.
Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, welcomed the FMF’s deployment to Taiwan.
“These weapons will not only help Taiwan and protect other democracies in the region, but also strengthen the US deterrent position and ensure our national security from an increasingly aggressive CCP,” he said in a statement, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.
China and the US have recently taken cautious steps to resume dialogue in hopes of stabilizing increasingly turbulent ties, and Taiwan remains a clear point of friction.
In response to Taiwanese leaders’ interactions with US politicians, China has held major military exercises three times in just over a year.
Source : www.aljazeera.com