US President Joe Biden's recent approval of $80 million in aid to Taiwan for the purchase of US military equipment triggered a strong condemnation from China. While this amount may seem relatively modest, it marks a significant shift as it is the first time in over 40 years that the United States has used its own funds to send weapons to a country it does not officially recognize.
This move is part of the Foreign Military Funds (FMF) program, previously reserved for nations recognized by the United Nations. Notably, Taiwan does not fall into this category since the US transferred diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979.
The historical approach involved maintaining strategic ambiguity, selling enough weapons to enable Taiwan's defense without jeopardizing relations with Beijing. However, the evolving military balance in the Taiwan Strait, increasingly favoring China, has prompted a reassessment of this strategy.
The $80 million in aid is just the beginning, with experts suggesting it could escalate to a substantial sum, potentially reaching $10 billion over the next five years. The urgency to enhance Taiwan's military capabilities is underscored by Washington's emphasis on strategic ambiguity, signaling solidarity amid rising tensions with Beijing.
This aid includes the approval of military services and equipment sales, such as the recent $500 million sale greenlit by President Biden. Taiwan, facing a significant power imbalance with China, welcomes this support. Plans are underway to send two battalions of ground troops to the US for training, a move not seen since the 1970s.
The direct allocation of funds from the FMF allows for a quicker and more efficient procurement process, bypassing the lengthy approval procedures. Despite the bipartisan support for Taiwan in the US, external factors like conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza can impact arms shipments.
The island's military deficiencies, ranging from outdated equipment to inadequate manpower and strategic shortcomings, highlight its vulnerability to a potential Chinese attack. The aid is expected to address immediate needs, focusing on advanced weaponry such as Javelin and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.
However, the long-term goal is to bolster Taiwan's overall military preparedness, as acknowledged by experienced observers who stress the island's current lack of readiness for a substantial military confrontation. As the geopolitical landscape evolves, the US-Taiwan relationship enters a new phase, with financial commitments signaling a departure from decades-old practices.