Washington’s first direct military aid to Taiwan took a pivotal step in the US Congress on Wednesday, September 14, with this vote likely to provoke Beijing’s wrath.
“This is the most significant revision of US policy towards Taiwan” since 1979, when Washington recognized China while agreeing to maintain the island’s self-defense capacity, assure Senators Bob Menendez (Democrat, New Jersey) and Lindsey Graham (Republican, South Carolina), at the head of this initiative.
Their bill, approved by the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, provides for nearly $ 4.5 billion (€ 4.5 billion) of direct military aid to Taiwan over the next four years. It also demands that US President Joe Biden impose sanctions on major Chinese financial institutions in response to anything “Escalation of hostile acts towards Taiwan”.
The “Taiwan Policy Act of 2022”, as it is called, also provides for granting the island the status of“Important non-NATO ally”.
This vote in committee is only the first step in a long legislative process: the text must now be adopted in plenary session in the Senate, then in the House of Representatives, before being promulgated by Joe Biden. But it still marks a significant rapprochement between the United States and Taiwan, at a time when relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest in recent decades.
The White House is therefore navigating this dossier with great caution. “We will continue to communicate directly with the Congress on this text”White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said evasively Wednesday. Before ensuring that the Biden administration “Would continue to deepen its partnership with Taiwan with strong diplomatic, economic and military support”.
Sale of arms and visit of Pelosi
The congressional vote comes just days after Washington sold $ 1.1 billion worth of arms to Taiwan, and just over a month after a visit to the island by Democratic House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, which infuriated Beijing. China had therefore launched the most important military maneuvers in its history around the island.
Prior to the visit to Taiwan of Nancy Pelosi, number three in the United States and the highest American official to visit the island in decades, Joe Biden’s entourage had already quietly claimed in China that the speaker of the House did not represent administrative policy, Congress being a separate branch of government.
China considers Taiwan, with a population of around 23 million, one of its provinces, which has yet to successfully reunify with the rest of its territory since the end of the Chinese civil war (1949). In seven decades, the Communist army has never been able to take over the island, which has remained under the control of the Republic of China, the regime that once ruled mainland China and now only rules Taiwan.