Washington’s first direct military aid to Taiwan took a major step in the US Congress on Wednesday, September 14, in a vote that will draw Beijing’s ire.
“This is a very important change in US policy towards Taiwan.” Since 1979, when Washington recognized China and agreed to maintain the island’s defense capabilities, Senators Bob Menendez (Democrat, New Jersey) and Lindsey Graham (Republican, South Carolina) have spearheaded the effort.
Their bill, passed by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, provides nearly $4.5 billion (€4.5 billion) in direct military aid to Taiwan over the next four years. It also calls for US President Joe Biden to impose retaliatory sanctions on any Chinese financial institutions “Increasing Hostilities Against Taiwan”.
A remarkable compromise
The so-called “Taiwan Policy Act 2022” also provides for granting the island status.“Major Non-NATO Ally”.
The vote in committee is just the first step in a long legislative process: The text must now pass the full Senate, then the House of Representatives, before being announced by Joe Biden. But at a time when relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest level in decades, it still represents a remarkable rapprochement between the United States and Taiwan.
So the White House is approaching this file with extreme caution. “We will continue directly with Congress on this speech.”, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday to avoid. Before promising that the Biden administration It will continue to deepen its partnership with Taiwan with strong diplomatic, economic and military support.
Arms sales and Pelosi’s visit
The vote in Congress comes days after Washington sold $1.1 billion in arms to Taiwan. This infuriated Beijing. China began the most important military maneuvers in its history around the island.
The entourage of Joe Biden, the highest-ranking US official to visit the island in decades, had already quietly argued with China before US third-in-command Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. Speaker Congress did not represent executive policy, the Congress was a separate branch of government.
China considers Taiwan, with a population of about 23 million, as one of its provinces, and has not successfully reunited with the rest of it since the end of the Chinese Civil War (1949). In seven decades, the Communist military never managed to capture the island, which was under the control of the Republic of China — the regime that once ruled mainland China and now rules only Taiwan.