The Biden administration has announced a $345 million weapons package for Taiwan, the first installment of a total of $1 billion that the U.S. has allocated to be transferred directly from Pentagon stockpiles to the island this year. This move is likely to anger China, as Washington has been attempting to rebuild relations with Beijing. Despite recent visits to China by senior administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, tensions between the two nations remain high over a range of issues, including U.S. support for Taiwan and Beijing’s spy balloon program.
John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, stated that the U.S. takes its responsibilities to Taiwan and improving their self-defense capabilities very seriously. This package marks the first time that the U.S. has used new authority from Congress to transfer military equipment directly from Pentagon inventory to Taiwan, under the Presidential Drawdown Authority.
The contents of the package have not been publicly released due to sensitivities with China. However, a former DOD official with knowledge of the discussions stated that it will include MQ-9 Reaper drones and small arms ammunition. Taiwan has previously purchased Reapers from the U.S., along with advanced missiles, fighter jets, and other high-ticket weapons.
The status of Taiwan has increasingly become a flashpoint in U.S.-China relations in recent years, as Beijing seeks to reunify Taiwan with the mainland, with or without force. While the United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it has long supported Taipei’s self-defense capability through arms sales and a close military relationship.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin informed lawmakers in May that a presidential drawdown package was being prepared for Taiwan. However, it took several weeks of additional work before the aid could be officially announced. Among other challenges, DOD had to resolve an accounting error that forced officials finalizing packages for Ukraine and Taiwan to recalculate the value of equipment being sent.
The mistake occurred when officials counted the value of replacing the weapons instead of their value when purchased. As a result, aid to Ukraine was overvalued by $6.2 billion. Similarly, the package for Taiwan, originally valued at $500 million, has an actual value of more than $300 million.