Taiwan happy with US aid package, China objects to arms sales

By Thomson Reuters Apr 24, 2024 | 1:28 AM

TAIPEI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday she was happy the U.S. Congress had passed a sweeping foreign aid package which includes arms support for the island, as China urged Washington to stop selling weapons to Taipei.

The United States is Taiwan’s most important international backer and arms supplier even in the absence of formal diplomatic ties. China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, has repeatedly demanded arms sales stop.

The Senate approved by 79 to 18 four bills passed by the House of Representatives on Saturday, after House Republican leaders abruptly switched course last week and allowed a vote on the $95 billion in mostly military aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and U.S. partners in the Indo-Pacific.

Meeting visiting U.S. lawmakers at the presidential office in Taipei, Tsai noted the passage of the bills over the weekend.

“We are also very happy that the Senate has just passed these bills,” she said.

China says Taiwan, whose government rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims, is a purely internal matter and the most sensitive and important issue in relations with the United States.

In Beijing, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office expressed anger at the bills, which President Joe Biden said he would sign into law on Wednesday.

The bills “send the wrong signal to Taiwan independence separatist forces, and we are resolutely opposed to it”, spokesperson Zhu Fenglian told reporters.

“We urge the United States to take concrete actions to fulfil its commitment not to support Taiwan independence and to stop arming Taiwan in any way,” she added.

Taiwan has complained for the past four years of stepped up Chinese military activity near the island, including almost daily missions by Chinese warplanes and warships.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Sunday it would discuss with the United States how to use the new funding.

Taiwan has since 2022 complained of delays in deliveries of U.S. weapons such as Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, as manufacturers focussed on supplying Ukraine to help the country battle invading Russian forces.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Liz Lee; Editing by Stephen Coates)