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US promises 'resolute reaction' if Chinese Taipei attacked

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (R) meets with Rob Wittman, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (C) and delegations at the Presidential Office in Chinese Taipei, Sept. 1, 2023. (Photo by AP)

A US congressional delegation visiting Chinese Taipei has hinted that the United States would take military action if the self-ruled island came under attack.

Any unprovoked attack on Taiwan will result in a "resolute reaction" from Washington, US Congressman Rob Wittman said on Friday during a visit to Taipei.

China has repeatedly proposed peaceful means for Taipei reunification, warning that Beijing is ready to use force to reunite the island with the mainland if necessary.

"Know that any hostile unprovoked attack on Taiwan will result in a resolute reaction from the US," said Rob Wittman, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in a speech, ahead of meetings with President Tsai Ing-Wen.

The US lawmaker also promised to resolve the $19 billion backlog in Taipei’s military purchases from the US despite Beijing warning Washington against selling arms to the secessionists.

The US has sold $19 billion worth of weapons, munitions, and military equipment to Taipei, but most of that remains undelivered due to the two sides' failure to reach an agreement on the payment terms.

"We have an obligation to make sure that we fill the backlog of foreign military sales that exist now between our countries," Wittman said.

He said both Republicans and Democrats were working on the issue. "I can tell you that members of the House on both sides of the aisle are focused on making sure this $19 billion backlog in foreign military sales gets fulfilled."

US law requires Washington to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself and treat all threats to the island as matters of "grave concern," but remains ambiguous on whether it would commit forces in response to an attack from China.

Wittman of Virginia, along with Carlos Gimenez of Florida and Jen Kiggans of Virginia, arrived Thursday for a three-day visit to Taiwan. The three Republicans are meeting with Tsai and the head of Taiwan's National Security Council Wellington Koo.

Analysts describe the visit and comments by the US lawmaker as encouraging the wayward island’s secessionist leaders and as Washington's latest provocation in a long list of provocations, enraging China’s government.

Taiwan is a self-ruled island and Tsai has been pushing to make its military more mobile and harder to attack, seeking to turn the island into what US officials call a "porcupine".

China recognizes Taipei as a sovereign part of the country, emphasizing the internationally recognized "one China" principle.

In the meantime, US provocations have met with China's response in recent years, including Chinese fighter jets and navy ships holding military drills around the island, sometimes getting close and encircling it.

The United States announced in July that it would provide Taipei with $345 million in military aid in a major weapons package drawing on America's own stockpiles.

The Biden administration also approved its first-ever arms aid to Taiwan under a foreign military assistance program typically used for sovereign nations, infuriating China which views the self-ruled island as part of its territory.

According to media reports, the Biden administration on Wednesday approved the transfer of $80 million worth of military equipment to Taiwan under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program, which will be paid for by US taxpayers.

Last week, in its latest notification of arms sales, the US approved a possible $500 million sale to Taipei, including infrared search and track systems for F-16 fighter jets, as well as other equipment.

In a report to Taipei’s parliament on the military’s ongoing five-year planning review, Taipei's military warned of "increased threats from the Chinese communists", asking parliamentarians to resolve the payment problems.

Taiwan’s military proposed "multiple ways" to pay the United States. "For weapons and equipment that cannot be delivered on schedule, the United States is requested to take the initiative to contact other suppliers or allies to help our country obtain equipment for combat power immediately."

Taiwan’s military mapped out the weapons it aimed to bring into service, including the upgraded Patriot PAC-3 surface-to-air missiles and Lockheed Martin's High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS.

Chinese officials have repeatedly warned Washington against arming Taipei, saying US meddling would only create instability in the region.

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