POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

US approves first-ever military aid to Taiwan through program typically used for sovereign nations

Aug 31, 2023, 8:00 AM

A Taiwanese soldier holds a Taiwan national flag at Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan, North...

A Taiwanese soldier holds a Taiwan national flag at Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan, Northern Taiwan, on July 26. The Biden administration has approved the first-ever transfer of US military equipment to Taiwan on Aug. 29. Photo credit: ChiangYing-ying/AP/FILE

(CNN) — The Biden administration has approved funding for the first-ever transfer of US military equipment to Taiwan under a program typically saved for sovereign nations, according to a notification sent to Congress on Tuesday.

The package – which is part of the State Department’s foreign military financing (FMF) program – totals $80 million and will be paid for by US taxpayers.

“FMF 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 wrote in its notification to Congress that was reviewed by CNN.

A State Department spokesperson confirmed the first-ever transfer.

“Consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act and our longstanding one China policy, which has not changed, the United States makes available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to enable it to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability,” the spokesperson told CNN in a statement. “The United States has an abiding interest in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, which is critical to regional and global security and prosperity.”

The newest development in continued US support for Taiwan is likely to anger China, which claims the self-governing island as its own.

The US has sold weapons to Taiwan in the past through a separate program called Foreign Military Sales (FMS). The FMF program will provide grant assistance, paid for by US taxpayers, to Taiwan in order to make those purchases.

According to the letter sent to Congress, the sale could span a wide range of capabilities, including air and coastal defense systems, ballistic missile defense, cyber defense, drones, military training, individual soldier protective gear, and ammunition. It is likely to take months or years for the military support to actually get to Taiwan, because the equipment will be folded into future equipment buys by the Pentagon.

Under the Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act passed last year, the US government is authorized to spend up to $2 billion annually in military grant assistance to the island from 2023 to 2027.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul welcomed the approval.

“I am glad the administration is further implementing our bipartisan Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act by finally providing FMF to Taiwan. These weapons will not only help Taiwan and protect other democracies in the region, but also strengthen the U.S. deterrence posture and ensure our national security from an increasingly aggressive CCP,” McCaul said in a statement.

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US approves first-ever military aid to Taiwan through program typically used for sovereign nations