US President Joe Biden may have given Taiwan a Christmas present by signing a defense bill that would see the US loan the democratic island $2 billion to bolster its capabilities against threats from China.
Biden on Friday signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2023, allocating $816.7 billion to the Department of Defense, the White House said in a statement.
The law, known as HR 7776, authorizes “funds primarily for Department of Defense programs and military construction efforts,” as well as for the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, the Maritime Administration, the US Coast Guard, and the Secret Service.
On the same day, the House of Representatives also passed the Senate-passed Comprehensive Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2023.
Under the NDAA, the U.S. Department of State is authorized to provide Taiwan with up to $2 billion in accordance with the Foreign Military Finance grant and loan assistance program for the purchase of U.S.-made weapons and defense equipment.
The law stipulates that the loans have a term of 12 years.
The NDAA also includes a proposal for Taiwan to formally participate in the upcoming Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military exercise.
Taipei welcomes the law
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the signing of the NDAA, saying it “highly demonstrates the firm attitude of the United States to support strengthening all-round cooperation between Taiwan and the United States.”
A statement said Taipei “will continue to communicate and discuss with the US Congress and the executive branch in accordance with overall national policies and promote the implementation of various provisions of friendship with Taiwan gradually and at a steady pace.”
However, a Taiwanese analyst said it “doesn’t necessarily mean Taiwan would get whatever it wanted.”
Lin Ying-yu, an assistant professor at Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, was quoted by the official Central News Agency as saying that “any decision about what to sell and what not to sell ultimately rests with the US Department for the state and Department of Defense, which are required to pre-clear and prioritize defense items sold to Taiwan.”
Meanwhile, China reacted angrily to the passage of the NDAA, calling it “a serious political provocation against China.”
China’s Foreign Ministry said, “China regrets and strongly opposes this US move and has made serious demarches with the US.”
China urged the US to “abandon the cold war and zero-sum mentality and ideological bias” and not implement the law.
“China will take strong and resolute measures to firmly protect its sovereignty, security and development interests,” the ministry said.
China regards Taiwan as a Chinese province to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary, and strongly protests “interference of external forces in the Taiwan issue.”