Senate tees up billions in military aid to Taiwan to counter Chinese aggression

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The Senate this week took a step toward approving billions of dollars in new military aid to Taiwan, a move that is sure to inflame tensions with Chinese Communist Party officials who have already called the proposal “abusive” and “dangerous.”

The Senate on Tuesday started work on an amended version of the annual defense policy bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). 

The version called up on the Senate floor includes legislation from senators Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that authorizes $6.5 billion in assistance that Taiwan could use to boost its military capabilities.

The Senate is hoping to pass the bill after the midterm elections. Passage will likely lead to a sharp response from China, which called the bill a “big step backward regarding China-U.S. ties” when it was introduced.

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In this photo provided by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a People's Liberation Army member looks through binoculars during military exercises as Taiwan’s frigate Lan Yang is seen in the distance Aug. 5, 2022.

In this photo provided by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a People’s Liberation Army member looks through binoculars during military exercises as Taiwan’s frigate Lan Yang is seen in the distance Aug. 5, 2022.
(Lin Jian/Xinhua via AP)

China routinely warns that U.S. involvement with Taiwan amounts to dangerous meddling in China’s domestic affairs and departs from the “One China” policy. But Menendez said the Taiwan military aid bill is about preventing a conflict, not about marching to war.

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“We need to be clear-eyed about what we are facing, just as we need to be clear in our response,” Menendez said over the summer. “Despite what some may try to argue, the primary focus of this bill has always been on deterrence and on enhancing Taiwan’s capabilities.”

Committee chairman Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., questions Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Sept. 14, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

Committee chairman Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., questions Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Sept. 14, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. 
(Drew Angerer/Pool via AP)

The Taiwan language included in the NDAA significantly boosts U.S. aid and involvement with Taiwan. It would allow the State Department to make direct loans and loan guarantees to Taiwan for the purpose of supplying arms and provides up to $2 billion in grants for Taiwan’s military.

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It changes federal law so that a larger cache of munitions can be stored near Taiwan in case they are needed to repel an attack from China, and it sets up a fast-track system that allows weapons to move more quickly to Taiwan.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has co-sponsored legislation to significantly boost U.S. military aid to Taiwan March 23, 2022. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has co-sponsored legislation to significantly boost U.S. military aid to Taiwan March 23, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

It calls for a multi-year plan to help Taiwan acquire “appropriate defensive capabilities” and more joint training exercises with the U.S.

The bill calls on federal agencies to help Taiwan “advance a strategy of denial, reduce the threat of conflict [and] thwart an invasion.”

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It calls for a detailed plan for responding to Chinese propaganda and an assessment of how China might be rethinking military action against Taiwan in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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