US approves first arms to Taiwan under foreign aid programme

US provides historic direct military aid to Taiwan amidst growing tensions with China
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In a significant move that has garnered attention worldwide, the administration of US President Joe Biden has taken an unprecedented step by granting direct military aid to Taiwan. This development comes as part of an assistance program aimed at supporting foreign governments, with an official announcement made on Wednesday. Concerns over China’s actions and intentions have affected this decision.

The State Department officially communicated the approval of an $80 million aid package to Congress on Tuesday. While this sum might appear modest in comparison to recent sales to Taiwan, it marks a historic milestone as the first instance of assistance to Taipei under the Foreign Military Financing program. This program typically involves offering grants or loans to sovereign nations to bolster their defence capabilities.

Predictably, China has expressed its disapproval of this move. The longstanding recognition of Beijing by the United States over the past five decades has not changed, even though the Taiwan Relations Act necessitates the supply of defensive weaponry to the self-governing democracy.

Unlike prior US administrations that facilitated arms transfers through sales, this new decision introduced a unique dynamic by providing direct aid to Taiwan. The State Department has clarified that this shift does not imply recognition of Taiwan’s sovereignty. A spokesperson for the department affirmed, “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.”

Taiwan’s defence ministry has expressed its gratitude for this assistance, acknowledging that it will contribute to regional peace and stability. Although specific details of the aid have not been officially disclosed, it is understood to involve support to enhance maritime awareness.

The process of granting the aid requires congressional approval, and this is widely anticipated given the broad bipartisan support for Taiwan among lawmakers. Representative Mike McCaul, the Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, commended this step, noting that it will not only benefit Taiwan’s security but also strengthen the United States’ deterrence posture in the face of an increasingly assertive Chinese Communist Party.

The United States and China have resumed dialogue in recent months with hopes of easing tensions between these two major nations. However, the situation with Taiwan remains a contentious point. China has been vocal about its concerns, viewing the US as encouraging formal independence for Taiwan. In response to Taiwanese interactions with the United States, China has conducted significant military exercises multiple times in the past year, raising speculation about its intentions.

Senior US officials have expressed their belief that Chinese President Xi Jinping might be altering the status quo in relation to Taiwan. The extent of this shift, influenced by China’s economic concerns and Russia’s geopolitical situation, is still debated among analysts.

This event marks the second time within a short span that the Biden administration has demonstrated its support for Taiwan. In July, Biden authorized $345 million of military aid to Taiwan from surplus US stockpiles, drawing inspiration from a similar approach in supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression.

It is important to note that Israel remains the top beneficiary of Foreign Military Financing, receiving more than $3 billion annually.

Shaheer Gul Khan is a final-year student of English Literature at Government College University (GCU) Lahore. Strives to create a challenging and engaging environment having editor skills in freelancing, a goal-oriented. He can be reached at Twitter @HafizShaheerGu1.