The State Department defended on Monday its decision to approve a potential arms sale to Taiwan worth over $100 million after China demanded the US cancel the deal.
The Biden administration announced on Friday the agreement to supply Taipei with $108 million in tank and other combat vehicle equipment, as well as logistical support. It drew a swift rebuke from Beijing, which has demanded the order’s cancellation, according to Chinese media.
But State Department spokesman Ned Price defended the preliminary deal, reiterating that the US has “obligations” under US law to supply Taiwan with the military articles it needs to defend itself.
“Under the Taiwan Relations Act, we make available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability. This is something that successive administrations have done. It is entirely consistent with our one China policy,” said Price.
The sale is currently in a congressional review period, but it is nearly certain to clear Congress without opposition.
China considers Taiwan a “breakaway province,” but Taipei has maintained its independence since 1949.
US relations with Taiwan have long been governed by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. The act commits the US to supply Taipei with the resources it needs to defend against a potential attack, but it does not explicitly commit the US to militarily stepping in if Taiwan is invaded by China.
President Joe Biden last month explicitly said the US would defend Taiwan should China invade, but the remarks were quickly walked by his officials.
Last month, the Democratic and Republican heads of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced legislation that proposes a major overhaul of US policy toward Taiwan.
The legislation, introduced by Sens. Bob Menendez and Lindsey Graham, would provide Taiwan with roughly $4.5 billion in security assistance over the next four years and would designate Taiwan as a major non-NATO ally. Taiwan is already treated as such under US law, but the label has not been practically applied.
The act would further add additional US support for Taiwan’s inclusion in international organizations and trade blocs.