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Taiwan thanks US for sweeping aid package, China says island entering 'dangerous situation'

The US Senate passed the foreign aid package after months of delay, comprising $8 billion to counter Chinese threats in Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific. While Taiwan lauded the move to protect against authoritarianism, China sharply criticised the move, saying it violates US commitments to Beijing.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Taipei Published on: April 24, 2024 16:48 IST
Taiwan China relations, US aid package
Image Source : REUTERS (FILE) Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Taipei/Beijing: After months of delays and continuous debate, the US Senate passed a $95 billion foreign aid package for Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine in a 79-18 vote on late Tuesday, sending the legislation to President Joe Biden. Taiwan expressed gratitude over the package, saying it will strengthen deterrence against authoritarianism, while China has sharply criticised the move by asserting that such funding is pushing the island into a "dangerous situation".

The legislation recently passed by the Senate and the House Republicans on Saturday would send $61 billion to Ukraine, $26 billion in wartime assistance to Israel and humanitarian relief to citizens of Gaza, and $8 billion to counter Chinese threats in Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific. The bills would be signed into law on Wednesday. Taiwan's outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen expressed happiness over the passed bills during a meeting with US lawmakers at the presidential office in Taipei.

"We are also very happy that the Senate has just passed these bills," she said. Taiwan's President-elect Lai Ching-te asserted that the move will "strengthen deterrence against authoritarianism" and instill confidence in the region. Lai said the bill underscores Washington's commitment to Taiwan's security and emphasises its role in helping "ensure peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait".

Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said at the meeting that areas where the money is to be spent, such as training or equipment, would be discussed with the United States. "The United States has expressed goodwill, and it needs to be negotiated between us," he told parliament. The timing of the delegation's visit holds significance against the backdrop of escalating tensions with China.

China's response to US aid package

China claims the entire island of Taiwan as its own territory and has threatened to take it by force if necessary. Beijing claims Taiwan is a purely internal matter and the most important and sensitive issue in relations with the United States. In Beijing, China's Taiwan Affairs Office expressed anger at the bills, saying it "seriously violates" US commitments to China and "sends a wrong signal to the Taiwan independence separatist forces".

Office spokesperson Zhu Fenglian added that Taiwan's ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, which won a third four-year presidential term in January, is willing to "become a pawn for external forces to use Taiwan to contain China, bringing Taiwan into a dangerous situation."

"We urge the United States to take concrete actions to fulfil its commitment not to support Taiwan independence and to stop arming Taiwan in any way," said Fenglian. Meanwhile, the Chinese foreign ministry said that the strengthening of "military collusion" between the United States and Taiwan would not bring security for the island. "It will only push up tensions and the risk of conflict and confrontation in the Taiwan Strait," said spokesperson Wang Wenbin.

This comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in China on Wednesday for a visit, with Taiwan expected to be one of the topics of discussion. Taiwan has protested for the past four years about stepped up Chinese military activity near the island, including almost daily missions by Chinese warplanes and warships.

What is the US giving to Taiwan?

The Pentagon is expected to send the initial $1 billion package to Ukraine soon. The package has had broad congressional support since Biden first requested the money last summer. But congressional leaders had to navigate strong opposition from a growing number of conservatives who question US involvement in foreign wars and argue that Congress should be focused instead on the surge of migration at the US-Mexico border.

The package covers a wide range of parts and services aimed at maintaining and and upgrading Taiwan's military hardware. Separately, Taiwan has signed billions in contracts with the US for latest-generation F-16V fighter jets, M1 Abrams main battle tanks and the HIMARS rocket system, which the US has also supplied to Ukraine. The comprehensive package, which now awaits President Biden's signature, bundles together four bills that had previously faced hurdles in both chambers of Congress.

Taiwan has also been expanding its own defence industry, building submarines and trainer jets. It plans to commission its third and fourth domestically designed and built stealth corvettes next month to counter the Chinese navy as part of a strategy of asymmetrical warfare, in which a smaller force counters its larger opponent by using cutting edge or nonconventional tactics and weaponry.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | BIG relief to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan as US Senate overwhelmingly passes USD 95 billion aid

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