BRISBANE, Australia — The U.S. is sending Taiwan $345 million in security assistance as part of a long-awaited aid package meant to help the island defend itself from a potential invasion by China.
The announcement from the White House on Friday said the aid, going to Taiwan as part of a drawdown from existing U.S. weapons stocks, will include "defense articles and services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training."
Speaking in Brisbane, Australia, on Saturday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin emphasized the defensive nature of the weapons and systems included in the package and said it should not be seen as a provocation.
"This is no change from what we’ve done in the past," Austin said following the conclusion of the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and their Australian counterparts.
"It’s important to use every instrument we have available, every mechanism we have available … it’s really using every tool we have in the inventory," he added.
Speaking to reporters in Brisbane, Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Martin Meiners said the package "includes self-defense capabilities that Taiwan will be able to use to build to bolster deterrence now and in the future."
Systems included in the package "address critical defensive stockpiles, multidomain awareness, anti-armor and air defense capabilities," he said.
Some media reports have quoted anonymous U.S. defense officials as saying the aid package also includes MQ-9 Reaper drones. Taiwan has previously bought MQ-9s from the U.S.
Pentagon officials declined to say how soon items in the package would arrive in Taiwan but said that they were "working expeditiously" to deliver the systems.
Meiners said the announcement of the package did not indicate any new or emerging threats to Taiwan. And unlike similar security assistance packages done under the presidential drawdown authority for Ukraine, this aid package does not require the declaration of an emergency.
Meiners also said the aid package to Taiwan would not affect ongoing U.S. assistance to Ukraine.
U.S. military and intelligence officials have said Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the Chinese military to be ready to launch an invasion to reunify Taiwan with China by 2027.
"I wouldn't underestimate President Xi's determination to assert China's control, the People's Republic of China's control, over Taiwan," CIA Director William Burns said at a security forum earlier this month in Aspen, Colorado.
VOA has reached out to the Chinese Embassy in Washington for comment.
Speaking at the same conference as Burns, China's ambassador to the United States, Xie Feng, insisted Beijing wants a peaceful reunification with Taiwan.
"No one is more eager or sincere than China to see a peaceful solution," Xie said, although he said what he called Taiwanese separatists were taking actions that only serve to destabilize the situation with U.S. support.
"The first and foremost thing we should bear in mind is that Taiwan is China's Taiwan," he added.
But already, China is voicing displeasure.
“China firmly opposes U.S. military ties with and arms provision to Taiwan,” Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu told VOA via email.
“This position is consistent and unequivocal,” he said. “The U.S. should abide by the one-China principle and the three China-U.S. joint communiqués, stop providing arms to Taiwan, stop creating new factors that could lead to tensions in the Taiwan Strait and stop posing risks to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
Congress has authorized the U.S. to send Taiwan up to $1 billion in security assistance through the presidential drawdown authority this fiscal year.
Defense Secretary Austin has previously said he intends to use all the drawdown authority to support Taiwan.
"The administration continues to review Taiwan's self-defense requirements and we will continue to assess the best authority to meet these requirements going forward," said Meiners. "We have no further assistance to announce today."
There had been expectations and hopes among some U.S. lawmakers that the White House would rush the aid package to Taiwan, given what they and defense officials see as increasingly aggressive behavior from China.
Defense officials, though, said the package took time to put together because it required "substantial coordination with multiple U.S. government stakeholders, because this was the first PDA [presidential drawdown authority] package for Taiwan."
The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Republican Michael McCaul, praised the package as "much-needed … as Communist China eyes further aggression."
But he criticized President Joe Biden and his administration for not sending it sooner.
"This administration's repeated fear of escalation in providing critical weapon systems — in the midst of a great power competition — has only served to embolden Chairman Xi and his unholy alliance," McCaul said in a statement. "The U.S. must remain committed to providing necessary defense articles to enable Taiwan in maintaining deterrence and self-defense capability."