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US approves arms aid for Taiwan under program reserved for sovereign countries

Biden authorizes US$80 million package to Taiwan under Foreign Military Financing program for 1st time

File photo of the flags of U.S. and Taiwan.

File photo of the flags of U.S. and Taiwan. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — For the first time, the U.S. has approved the provision of US$80 million (NT$2.5 billion) in arms to Taiwan under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program, which is usually reserved for aiding sovereign, independent countries.

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday (Aug. 31) officially notified Congress of the military transfer. It said materials 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," reported AP.

The scale of military financing for Taiwan this time was smaller, accounting for only US$80 million of the US$2 billion budget prepared by Congress, according to the report. However, the use of the FMF to send weaponry will likely anger China.

AP pointed out past U.S. arms sales to Taiwan were approved under other authorizations and did not necessarily involve statehood implications. However, U.S. officials said that the provision of FMF military aid to Taiwan does not represent an official change in policy.

Two U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to AP said that previously, the U.S. had provided arms to Taiwan via Foreign Military Sales (FMS). The use of the FMF program "simply enables eligible partner nations to purchase U.S. defense articles, services, and training through either FMS or, for a limited number of countries, through the foreign military financing of direct commercial contracts (FMF/DCC) program."

However, because the program says on the Defense Security Cooperation Agency website that it officially sells weapons to "partner nations" and "a limited number of countries," it could imply Taiwan is a "nation" or "country." Beijing has strongly objected to language indicating Taiwan is a country and has blocked it from obtaining membership in international organizations such as the U.N. unless it is listed as part of China.

The only other instance of the U.S. providing military aid to non-nation-states through the FMF is to the African Union, an organization of sovereign states headquartered in Ethiopia, U.S. officials said.

In response to the approval of the FMF financing for Taiwan, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul released an official statement which read as follows:

“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.”