Lawmakers on Capitol Hill will unveil bipartisan legislation Wednesday to bolster security relations with Taiwan, proposing a lend-lease agreement that would allow the U.S. to more rapidly arm Taipei with weapons ahead of a possible invasion by China.
The bipartisan and bicameral bill, previewed first by The Washington Times, would authorize the Biden administration to lend or lease weapons to Taiwan with a clear message to Chinese President Xi: Do not dare attack Taiwan.
“There is no doubt that the [Chinese Communist Party] is the greatest threat to global stability and America’s national security,” said Rep. Michelle Steel of California, the measure’s Republican co-author. “As they continue to threaten Taiwan and openly challenge the United States, it is more important than ever that we take immediate and decisive action to deter further aggression against our allies.”
The proposal comes in the wake of CIA Director William Burns revealing that China has doubts about its military capabilities to invade the self-governing island, which operates as a sovereign nation though is claimed by Beijing as Chinese territory.
President Biden has repeatedly vowed that the U.S. would defend Taiwan in the face of an attack, and the U.S. has continued to approve arms sales to the island despite rising tensions with China. But the White House has been less clear about whether the U.S. would respond with boots on the ground.
Although the White House has walked back Mr. Biden’s remarks, Beijing vowed that any attempt to interfere in Taiwan would be “crushed by the wheels of history.”
After meeting with Mr. Xi in November, Mr. Biden reassured the world that he does not think an attack on Taiwan is imminent. He also reiterated his support for Washington’s long-standing “One China” policy.
Under that policy, the U.S. acknowledges Beijing’s position that Taiwan is a part of China, even though the U.S. maintains informal diplomatic relations and substantial defense ties with the island democracy and does not technically recognize Chinese sovereignty over it.
Chinese officials have complained that U.S. arms shipments to Taiwan and high-profile contacts, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island last year, have upset long-standing diplomatic understandings of U.S. relations with Taiwan.
The bipartisan lend-lease proposal seeks to expedite the supply of American military weapons to head off an invasion.
“Democracies around the globe are facing a wide range of emerging geopolitical challenges, including Taiwan,” said Rep. Jimmy Panetta of California, the bill’s Democratic co-author. “Similar to our support in Ukraine, this bill would provide the Taiwanese with the necessary tools to protect its territory and defend its democracy.”
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, will introduce the companion legislation in the Senate.
The bill would require that Taiwan pay the U.S. the value of any loaned or leased weapons, or any interest, after 12 years. It would also define means of aggression against Taiwan as a full or partial naval blockade; an amphibious assault or ground invasion; a missile strike; operations against military targets or critical infrastructure; and a seizure or attempted seizure of islands controlled by Taiwan.
In a recent interview with CBS News, Mr. Burns said Mr. Xi has told China’s military to “be ready by 2027” to invade Taiwan and that the U.S. should take the threat of eventual invasion “very seriously.”
However, he said the communist regime has suspicions about whether it could successfully take control of Taiwan, in part thanks to the U.S. and European support of Ukraine against Russia.
“Our judgment … is that President Xi and his military leadership have doubts today about whether they could accomplish that invasion,” Mr. Burns said.