New legislation establishes Taiwan Security Assistance Initiative, accelerates Taiwan’s deployment of asymmetric defenses
Today U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) – a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee – introduced the Arm Taiwan Act of 2021 to strengthen Taiwan’s defenses against a Chinese invasion. It does so by allocating $3 billion annually for a new Taiwan Security Assistance Initiative to accelerate Taiwan’s deployment of asymmetric defense capabilities. It also conditions future conventional arms sales on Taiwan’s progress preparing its military and fielding the weapons required to defeat China’s war plans.
“Taiwan is in grave danger, but the future is not yet written,” said Senator Hawley.“The Arm Taiwan Act will ensure Taiwan has the asymmetric defenses it needs to deter a Chinese invasion – so long as Taiwan is prepared to make the difficult choices required to defend itself in the hard years ahead.
“We should do everything in our power to help Taiwan urgently strengthen its defenses. If China’s recent actions have shown the world anything, it’s that Beijing will stop at nothing in its quest to dominate the Indo-Pacific and then the world. We must not let them succeed.”
The Arm Taiwan Act of 2021 comes amidst a surge in Chinese military threats and warnings by U.S. and Taiwanese officials that China may try to invade Taiwan in the next few years.
Senator Hawley has been a strong supporter of Taiwan throughout his time in the Senate. Earlier this year, he reintroduced the Taiwan Defense Act with several cosponsors, which would make it U.S. policy to maintain the ability to defeat a Chinese fait accompli against Taiwan. Senator Hawley has also spoken on the Senate floor and elsewhere about the threat posed by Chinese imperialism in Americans’ lives, livelihoods, and freedoms.
The military balance in the Taiwan Strait is rapidly deteriorating. As a result, there is growing concern that China may conclude that it can, or actually be able to, invade and seize control of Taiwan by the late 2020s. One of the most effective ways to slow – or potentially even halt or reverse – this deterioration is to accelerate Taiwan’s deployment of cost-effective and resilient asymmetric defense capabilities, including mobile coastal and air defenses, naval mines, missile boats, man-portable anti-armor weapons, civil defense forces, and their enablers.
These capabilities can have a disproportionate effect on the cross-Strait military balance because they are designed to deny Chinese forces’ ability to achieve air superiority over Taiwan, deliver airborne or amphibious forces to Taiwan, and seize and hold Taiwanese territory. These capabilities are also difficult to target and neutralize by virtue of their mobility, concealability, and numbers, which will allow Taiwanese forces to fight longer and more effectively, especially in the initial period of war, when U.S. forces may be able to provide only limited support.
It is therefore imperative that Taiwan field cost-effective and resilient asymmetric defense capabilities as quickly as possible – and the United States has a strong interest in helping them do so. The United States also has an interest, however, in ensuring any such assistance is as effective as possible and that Taiwan is doing its part to strengthen its defenses with the urgency required.
That is why any assistance provided by the United States to accelerate Taiwan’s deployment of asymmetric defense capabilities should be conditioned on Taiwan taking key steps related to defense spending, acquisitions, and reform. It is also why any future conventional arms sales to Taiwan should be contingent on Taiwan demonstrating progress toward fielding a credible asymmetric defense.
The Arm Taiwan Act of 2021 does the following:
- Tasks the Secretary of Defense to form the Taiwan Security Assistance Initiative and authorizes $3 billion annually for the Initiative for fiscal years 2023 to 2027.
- Specifies how funds authorized for the Initiative should be used, with a specific emphasis on providing Taiwan with equipment, training, and other support required to accelerate Taiwan’s deployment of the asymmetric defense capabilities required to delay, degrade, and deny a Chinese invasion against Taiwan.
- Conditions provision of assistance under the Initiative on annual certification that Taiwan is matching U.S. investments in its asymmetric defenses, increasing defense spending, acquiring asymmetric defense capabilities as quickly as possible regardless of source, and implementing defense reforms, especially with regard to Taiwan’s reserve forces.
- Conditions the future sale, lease, or other provision of conventional weapons by the United States to Taiwan on demonstrated progress by Taiwan toward fielding a credible asymmetric defense.