By MATTHEW LEE
AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration has approved the first-ever U.S. military transfer to Taiwan under a program generally reserved for assistance to sovereign, independent states.
The State Department notified Congress of the sale on Wednesday. It said the material would “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 package is modest — only $80 million of what Congress had set aside as a potential $2 billion — but the implications of using the so-called Foreign Military Financing program to provide it will likely infuriate China.
Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, has repeatedly not ruled out the use of force to reunite it with the mainland and vociferously protests all U.S. arms sales to the self-governing island.
However, previous arms sales to Taiwan have been approved under other authorities that do not necessarily imply statehood. U.S. officials were quick to say that the provision of FMF funding to Taiwan did not represent a change in policy. It’s a position the Chinese are sure to disagree with.
The only other time the U.S. has provided a non-nation-state with military assistance under FMF was to the African Union, an organization of sovereign states based in Ethiopia, according to American officials.
The notification, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, did not specify what military equipment or systems would be paid for under FMF, which commits U.S. taxpayer dollars to pay for the supply of materiel to foreign countries.
But, it said items that could be covered would include: air and coastal defense systems, armored vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, drones, ballistic missile and cyber defenses, and advanced communications equipment. It added that protective gear, an array of small, medium and heavy weapons systems, ammunition, armored and infantry fighting vehicles could also be included.
In addition to equipment, FMF may also be used to support training for Taiwanese military forces.