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US steps up weapons shipments to Taiwan

Fresh from a patrol monitoring China's border incursion, this US-supplied F-16 waits to refuel and return to the air.

Fresh from a patrol monitoring China's border incursion, this US-supplied F-16 waits to refuel and return to the air. Photo: Getty

The US has announced $US345 million ($A519 million) in military aid for Taiwan, in what is the Biden administration’s first major package drawing on America’s own stockpiles to help Taiwan counter China.

The White House’s announcement on Friday said the package would include defence, education and training for the Taiwanese.

Washington will send man-portable air defence systems, or MANPADS, intelligence and surveillance capabilities, firearms and missiles, according to two US officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

US lawmakers have been pressuring the Pentagon and White House to speed weapons to Taiwan.

The goals are to help it counter China and to deter the Beijing regime from attacking by providing Taipei sufficient weaponry to make the price of invasion too high.

The package is in addition to nearly $US19 billion ($A29 billion) in military sales of F-16s and other major weapons systems that the US has approved for Taiwan.

Speedy delivery

Delivery of those weapons has been hampered by supply chain issues that started during the COVID-19 pandemic and have been exacerbated by the global defence industrial base pressures created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The difference is that this aid is part of a presidential authority approved by Congress last year to draw weapons from current US military stockpiles — so Taiwan will not have to wait for military production and sales. This gets weapons delivered faster than providing funding for new weapons.

The Pentagon has used a similar authority to get billions of dollars worth of munitions to Ukraine.

Taiwan split from China in 1949 amid civil war. Chinese President Xi Jinping maintains China’s right to take over the now self-ruled island, by force if necessary.

China has accused the US of turning Taiwan into a “powder keg” through the billions of dollars in weapons sales it has pledged.

-AAP

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