Sen. Josh Hawley introduced legislation on Tuesday that would bolster U.S.’s defense assistance to Taiwan amid rising tensions with China.
The bill, titled the Arm Taiwan Act of 2021, would task the secretary of defense with creating a Taiwan Assistance Initiative and authorize $3 billion annually for the five-year endeavor beginning in 2023.
The funds would be specifically authorized for providing military equipment and training aimed at accelerating Taiwan‘s deployment of “the asymmetric capabilities required to delay, degrade and deny a Chinese invasion against Taiwan,” according to the legislation.
Mr. Hawley, Missouri Republican and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the island democracy is “in grave danger,” citing warnings from U.S. and Taiwanese officials that “China may try to invade Taiwan in the next few years.”
“We should do everything in our power to help Taiwan urgently strengthen its defenses. If China‘s recent actions have shown the world anything, it’s that Beijing will stop at nothing in its quest to dominate the Indo-Pacific and then the world,” he said in a statement. “We must not let them succeed.”
The bill would also place conditions on future military sales on “demonstrated progress by Taiwan toward fielding a credible asymmetric defense.”
U.S. armed sales to Taiwan totaled close to $5 billion last year.
The increasing threat posed by China has received bipartisan attention in Washington. The Biden administration has prioritized U.S. competition with China, a country Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has called the U.S. military’s “pacing threat.”
But Republicans and some Democrats on Capitol Hill have pushed back on President Biden’s proposed defense budget, which they argue does not do enough to counter China.
House members from both sides of the aisle in September passed a close to $25 billion boost to Mr. Biden’s proposed defense budget, largely viewed as an effort to counter Russia and China.
In October, Mr. Biden seemingly abandoned the U.S.’ long-standing “strategic ambiguity” in U.S.-Taiwan relations, stating in a CNN town hall that the U.S. would “come to Taiwan‘s defense if China attacked.”
The White House later walked back the comment, but Ms. Tsai said she is confident the U.S. would be a dependable ally if China were to invade the island.
“I do have faith, given the long-term relationship that we have with the U.S., and also the support from the people of the U.S. and Congress,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen recently told CNN. “The administration has been very helpful.”