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US lawmakers introduce bill to arm Taiwan — Analysis

The ‘Lend-Lease Act’ mirrors legislation signed by President Biden to supply Ukraine with weapons

A bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats has introduced legislation that would allow the Biden administration create a new military aid program to Taiwan. The bill is modeled after the 1940s Lend-Lease Act, which allowed the US to arm allied countries during World War II. It is similar to legislation that was recently adopted to increase weapons supply to Ukraine.

Introduced by Representatives Michelle Steel (R-California) and Jimmy Panetta (D-California) in the House, and Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) in the Senate, the ‘Taiwan Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act’ would authorize the president to lend or lease weapons and military equipment to Taiwan, which Taipei would pay for over a 12-year period.

The bill’s name and wording closely follow that of the ‘Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act’, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden in May after passing Congress with almost no resistance.  

“Taiwan is our greatest partner in the Indo-Pacific region, and their continued sovereignty is essential to challenging the New Axis of Evil,” said Blackburn, referencing an often-maligned term used by former President George W. Bush to group America’s foreign enemies together. 




America’s official position on Taiwan, however, is ambiguous. Since the 1970s, Washington has recognized, but not endorsed, China’s sovereignty over Taiwan, a policy designed to discourage both a Chinese invasion and a formal declaration of independence by Taipei. 

Although the US provides military assistance to Taiwan, the passage of this act will lift all restrictions, just as was the case with the Ukrainian bill for aiding Kiev. In 1941, the original Lend-Lease Act allowed the US to supply arms to Britain and France without officially entering war. The Allies had to provide the funds, but the US accepted the leasing of military bases.

Recent tensions have escalated between China and the USA, with Taiwan being at the forefront. Biden made a May statement that the US would launch military actions to stop a Chinese takeover. This was a bold move that broke decades of diplomatic ambiguity. While his aides swiftly backtracked, a potential visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – which Pelosi refused to confirm or deny even as she departed the US for Asia on Friday – has further inflamed the situation. 

With Chinese President Xi Jinping warning America not to “play with fire,”Both China and Taiwan conducted military drills during this week. If Pelosi goes through with her visit to Taiwan, she will be the most high-ranking US lawmaker since Newt Geingrich (who was also the house speaker) visited Taipei in 1997.

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