Document reveals $14 billion backlog of US defense transfers to Taiwan

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WASHINGTON — Pandemic-related procurement issues have sparked a backlog in the United States delivering $14.2 billion worth of military equipment to Taiwan that the island has purchased since 2019.

With much of Washington’s attention focused on how to quickly deploy a steady stream of military aid to Ukraine, some lawmakers fear Taiwan’s delay could compromise its ability to deter a possible Chinese invasion.

Rep. Steve Chabot, the top Republican on the House Asia and Pacific panel, told Defense News the Foreign Affairs Committee held a meeting to discuss the backlog last week.

“We have to make sure that we provide Taiwan with the aid that they also need so that they are not vulnerable to the [People’s Republic of China]said the Ohio lawmaker. “Obviously Ukraine is in the limelight right now – and rightly so – but we better not forget about Taiwan as China’s actions are increasingly provocative.”

Defense News has obtained a spreadsheet detailing the pending equipment, which includes Taiwan’s $8 billion purchase of 66 F-16 fighter jets as well as $620 million to replace expiring components of its security system. Patriot missiles.

The delayed deliveries also consist of smaller asymmetric weapons systems, according to Washington, which would be useful in deterring and thwarting a possible Chinese invasion. China considers the autonomous island a rogue province and has promised to bring it back under Beijing’s control, by force if necessary.

These asymmetric weapons include Stinger missiles, heavy torpedoes, high mobility artillery rocket systems, Paladin howitzers, MS-110 reconnaissance modules and a field information communication system. They also include $2.37 billion in Harpoon Block II surface-launched missiles and $1 billion in air-launched SLAM-ER missiles.

The $14.2 billion backlog represents the vast majority of the approximately $17 billion worth of military equipment that Taiwan has agreed to purchase from the United States since July 2019. The US State Department has notified Congress another $95 million sale to provide contract support for Taiwan’s Patriot missile. system last week. (Foreign Military Sales Notification figures represent potential arms sales that the State Department internally authorizes. They must then pass a period of congressional review, during which costs and quantities may change.) .)

Neither the Defense Department nor Taiwan’s diplomatic office in Washington responded to Defense News’ request for comment on the backlog.

But Taiwan’s envoy to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, sounded the alarm on Capitol Hill last week in a bid to urge Washington to address the backlog.

Hsiao spoke about it over breakfast with Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and pushed for the inclusion of Taiwan alongside the United States and more than two dozen other participants in the biennial Rim of the Pacific naval exercises. off Hawaii.

“His biggest complaint against us is that, although we have notified and approved these systems, they have not yet been delivered to Taiwan,” McCaul told State Department Diplomat No. 2 Wendy Sherman. , during a hearing last week on Indo. -Pacific region.

He compared Taiwan’s position vis-à-vis China to that of Ukraine before the Russian invasion.

“Is Taiwan able to defend itself? McCaul asked. “I think the answer is ‘no’ right now, and that worries me. I don’t want to make the same mistake of waiting until after an invasion because it will be too late.

However, it remains unclear what — if anything — the United States can do to address the pandemic-related procurement issues that have caused the backlog.

“Our main problem – and we’re seeing it in Ukraine as well – is that the industry has lagged in developing these systems,” a Republican staffer on the House Foreign Affairs Committee told Defense News.

The staffer also noted that the US defense industry has attributed supply chain issues, staff shortages and shipping delays to COVID-19 – issues that have turned into production issues. wider.

“Honestly, the bottom line is there’s not much the government can do at this point to address supply chain issues,” Rupert Hammond-Chambers, chairman of the US-Taiwan Business Council, told Defense News.

Hammond-Chambers pointed to the federal government’s inability to address semiconductor supply chain issues that have contributed to rising car prices around the world.

“There is a lot of political and international pressure to fix the problem, but it has an almost negligible impact on companies’ ability to produce the chip needed by the automotive industry,” he said.

Prior to the backlog, Congress had largely focused on inducing Taiwan to make cheaper purchases consisting of large quantities of asymmetric munitions versus more expensive advanced weapons that China could quickly neutralize in a invasion.

And while much of Taiwan’s U.S. defense purchases bolster its asymmetric capabilities — including many backlog items — some in Washington raised eyebrows in 2019 when Taipei opted to go ahead with a purchase. $2 billion worth of Abrams tanks.

“The United States is encouraging Taiwan to purchase weapons that will [it] to adopt a strategy of denial that will prevent China from taking over and controlling Taiwan, so that they will not have the confidence to do so and therefore will not be tempted to do so, ”said Bonnie Glaser , director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund, told Defense News.

For example, Chabot introduced a bill last year with Rep. Ami Bera, D-California, calling on Taiwan to invest more in asymmetric defense capabilities.

Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also introduced a bill authorizing $2 billion a year in Taiwanese military aid, but only if Taipei produces long-term plans for the development of joint capabilities with the United States.

Another bill, introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., would authorize $3 billion in Taiwanese military aid per year. The bill would impose more explicit requirements stating that the funding is for the development of Taipei’s asymmetric defense capabilities against China.

The Biden administration has also encouraged Taiwan to invest more in its asymmetric capabilities, even though many of these munitions remain on hold.

“We also encourage Taiwan to focus on capabilities that would deter [People’s Republic of China] to take Taiwan by force,” Sherman said during his testimony before Congress last week. “That means focusing on capabilities that are cost effective, mobile, lethal, resilient and able to operate and survive in a contested environment.”

Bryant Harris is the congressional reporter for Defense News. He has covered the intersection of US foreign policy and national security in Washington since 2014. He has previously written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.

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