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Joe Biden to ask Congress to fund Taiwan arms via Ukraine budget

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The White House will ask Congress to fund arms for Taiwan as part of a supplemental budget request for Ukraine, in an effort to speed up the supply of weapons to the country amid the rising threat from China.

The Office of Management and Budget will include funding for Taiwan in the supplemental request as part of an effort to accelerate the provision of weapons, according to two people familiar with the plan.

If passed by Congress, Taiwan would get arms through a US taxpayer-funded system known as “foreign military financing” for the first time. The White House is expected to submit the request this month.

The request comes on the heels of a White House announcement that the US would supply Taiwan with $345mn in weapons from stockpiles for the first time, under a system known as “presidential drawdown authority” that has been used to send weapons to Ukraine.

The decision to include Taiwan funding in the supplemental budget and use PDA to supply weapons underscores a rising urgency to help Taipei. Critics of the current Taiwan strategy have urged Washington to supply weapons more quickly as China increases military activity around the country.

“This would be a monumental step that signals how far the US government is now willing to go to accelerate deterrence across the Taiwan Strait,” said Eric Sayers, managing director at Beacon Global Strategies, a Washington consultancy.

“For decades we have chosen to only sell Taiwan military equipment but now . . . we are seeing both the tools of drawdown authority and foreign military financing be deployed, just as they have been so successful in Ukraine,” Sayers added.

According to the US-Taiwan Business Council, a pro-Taiwan lobby group, Taipei is still awaiting delivery of $23bn worth of weapon sales, including harpoon missiles and surveillance drones, that were approved by successive US administrations. Some sales were announced more than five years ago. US military commanders have frequently expressed frustration with the slow transfer of weapons to Taiwan to enhance its security.

The White House declined to comment or reveal details about how much money would be requested for Taiwan.

The eventual congressional vote on the supplemental budget — which will focus predominantly on new military assistance for Ukraine — will be the first test of support for Kyiv in the current Congress.

A group of far-right House Republicans recently sought and failed to use the annual defence bill to restrict US support for Ukraine, a sign that even a small group of lawmakers could imperil or delay future assistance.

Packaging support for Taiwan, which has very strong bipartisan support in Congress, into the Ukraine budget may help the administration and pro-Kyiv Republicans win over members who might otherwise be opposed.

“Adding supplemental funding for Taiwan will put some House Republicans in a more difficult position since many who oppose Ukraine funding remain in favour of supporting Taiwan,” said Zack Cooper, an Asia security expert at the American Enterprise Institute think-tank.

Last year, Congress passed legislation approving $10bn in “foreign military financing” for Taiwan over five years. It would have been the first time that US taxpayers would fund weapons for Taiwan. But the congressional appropriation bill did not authorise the FMF funding.

“Observers are watching closely to see if Congress can put its money where its mouth is this year,” added Cooper. “The supplemental is arguably the best chance to do so.”

The Chinese embassy in Washington said China “firmly opposed US military ties with, and arms provision, to Taiwan”, over which Beijing claims sovereignty. It called on Washington to “stop posing risks to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

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