For months, the Biden administration has notified Congress of its desire to provide Taiwan with billions of dollars worth of weapons and other types of military support. According to The Arms Control Association, our proposed assistance package comprises 60 anti-ship Harpoon missiles and 100 air-to-air sidewinder missiles. The weapons transfers could be conducted through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. Aid being considered includes surveillance radar systems, tanks, artillery, unspecified weapons systems, and Patriot air defense systems.
Hopefully, we’ve learned a lesson from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and are seeking to preemptively aid Taiwan if Mainland China decides to launch an attack on the island. As I write this, President Biden and Chinese leader Xi meet in Bali at the G20 Summit. One would suppose that maintaining peace in the region would rank high on the agenda during talks between the two world leaders. Regardless, Taiwan must be ready with a “big stick,” just in case.
Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin told The Washington Post, “One of the lessons of Ukraine is that you need to arm your partners before the shooting starts, and that gives you your best chance of avoiding war in the first place.” Gallagher is a former Marine serving on the House Armed Services Committee. In September, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was interviewed on the David Rubenstein podcast and said it “remains a distinct threat that there could be a military contingency around Taiwan.” That’s Gallagher’s sentiments, except in broader terms.
Above, I mentioned the sale of arms; as far as providing extensive military aid to Taiwan out of our pocket, it’s not in the budget…at least not at this time. If lawmakers didn’t find ways to cut expenses in other areas, President Biden would have to request emergency assistance. No one wants to speak about that, at least not on the record. A senior administration official, speaking under the condition of anonymity, told WaPo, “Our engagement with Congress has been focused on ensuring that legislation that moves forward is clearly consistent with our policy framework that has helped maintain peace and stability across the [Taiwan] Strait.” Lots of words there, but nothing about how we’d pay to help Taiwan.
Legislators are working hard at hammering out details of the National Defense Authorization Act. As part of a proposed five-year plan, the Act would allow for the annual transfer of a billion dollars worth of existing munitions and military logistical support along with two billion dollars worth of weaponry over half a decade. US taxpayers would fund this.
Another option the US is considering is joint weapons production. There are a couple of ways that a plan like this could be executed. Either the US could provide technology to make the weapons in Taiwan, or they could be built in the United States using Taiwanese parts. Perhaps it could be a bit of both. Rupert Hammond-Chambers is president of the US-Taiwan Business Council. The group counts many US defense contractors as members. He states, “It’s right at the beginning of the process, and it has not yet been determined which weapons would be part of the effort.” He said agreements would likely provide Taiwan with more missile technology and munitions. Joint weapons production could face some hurdles, such as obtaining co-production licenses from the US Department of State and Defense. Mr. Hammond-Chambers reminds us that our government might not be quick to grant such permits out of an abundance of caution where approving critical technology to a foreign platform is concerned.
The Time to Take Action Is Now
Regardless of how we get aid to the Taiwanese, we don’t have the luxury of time if we want to be proactive. Ever since the visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei in August, the Chinese have significantly increased the size and frequency of military maneuvers in the Taiwan Strait. President Xi also recently managed to secure a third term as the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.
Bejing says, regarding Taiwan, that their aim is for peaceful reunification. However, in addressing the Chinese Communist Party Congress mere weeks ago, Xi reminded his nation that he vows to “never commit to abandoning the use of force” and is willing “to take all necessary measures” to do so.