A senior U.S. lawmaker pledged on Saturday to help provide training for Taiwan’s armed force and to speed up the delivery of weapons, as China began three days of military exercises around the island Beijing claims as its territory.
China announced the drills the day after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen returned to Taipei from Los Angeles, where she met speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy, infuriating Beijing.
Speaking at a lunch in Taipei hosted by Tsai for his bipartisan delegation, Michael McCaul, chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, said they were there in strong support of Taiwan and that it was important democracies stood together.
“As the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, I sign off on all foreign military sales, including weapons to Taiwan, and I promise you, Madam President, we will deliver those weapons,” he said.
Taiwan has since last year complained of delays to deliveries of U.S. weapons, such as Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, as manufacturers turn supplies to Ukraine to support its defence against Russia.
“We are doing everything we can in Congress to speed up these sales and get the weapons that you need to defend yourselves,” McCaul, a Republican, said.
“And we will provide training to your military – not for war, but for peace,” he added, without giving details. “Projecting weakness only invites aggression and conflict. Projecting strength provides deterrence and promotes peace.”
While a defence pact between Taiwan and the United States ended in 1979 when Washington severed formal diplomatic ties in favour of Beijing, a close military relationship endures and the United States is Taiwan’s main foreign source of arms.
The United States and has long offered some degree of training on weapon systems, as well as detailed advice on ways to strengthen its military to guard against an invasion by China’s People’s Liberation Army.
Some Taiwanese fighter pilots already train in the United States.
The United States is set to expand the number of troops helping train Taiwanese forces, two U.S. officials told Reuters in February.
Reuters reported in 2021 that a small number of U.S. special operations forces have been rotating into Taiwan on a temporary basis to train its forces.
China describes Taiwan as the most sensitive and important issue in its relations with the United States, and the topic is a constant source of friction between Beijing and Washington.