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Biden to Beg Congressional Approval for $1.1B Arms Deal – China in His Sights

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The Biden administration has just pivoted from disagreeing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to visit the de facto independent nation of Taiwan to begging Congress to approve a massive, $1.1 billion arms sale to Taipei.

A report in Politico this week outlines the proposed sale, which “includes 60 anti-ship missiles and 100 air-to-air missiles,” and cites three unnamed sources with “direct knowledge” of the deal.

Since Pelosi’s visit, the Chinese Communist government has sent a force of warships and aircraft into the Taiwan Strait as well as Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone.

The New York Times reported in early August that at least 10 Chinese destroyers and escorts were dispatched into the strait as well as the waters surrounding the island to conduct what state-controlled media referred to as “containment and control operations.”

Around that same time, Taiwan scrambled when as many as 49 Chinese fighters crossed the Taiwan Strait median line, the de facto boundary between China and what the Beijing government considers to be a “breakaway province,” according to Reuters.

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Politico broke down the sales package, which the report is “still in an early stage” as containing:

  • “60 AGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles for $355 million.”
  • “100 AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder tactical air-to-air missiles for $85.6 million.”
  • As well as “a surveillance radar contract extension” priced at $655.4 million.

The Sidewinder missiles are reportedly destined for Taiwan’s fleet of American-made F-16 fighter jets, Politico reported.

In 2019, then-President Donald Trump approved the sale of 66 F-16s to Taiwan over Beijing’s objections. In 1992, under then-President George H.W. Bush, the U.S. sold 150 of the aircraft to Taiwan.

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This proposed arms sale needs approval from the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, according to Politico.

A report from the Congressional Research Service on Congress’ Review Process explains, “Under the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), the President must formally notify Congress 30 calendar days before the Administration can take the final steps to conclude a government-to-government foreign military sale of major defense equipment valued at $14 million or more, defense articles or services valued at $50 million or more, or design and construction services valued at $200 million or more.”

Under the process, for Congress to block a sale, both houses would need to adopt a joint resolution for disapproval. This process would begin in the House and Senate committees. It’s the reverse of a “pocket veto” or letting a bill “die in committee,” if the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee agree with the sale, it moves forward.

It doesn’t look like any objections can be expected.

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, published a commentary piece in The New York Times on Aug. 3 advocating strong support for the Taipei government.

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The ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is Idaho’s Sen. Jim Risch, who has a record of strong support for Taiwan’s military.

The very same day that news broke of the impending sale, Risch tweeted from his Foreign Relations Committee account, calling for the Taiwan Policy Act, which contains provisions for “Fast-Tracking Sales to Taiwan under the Foreign Military Sales Program,” to be marked up (debated, amended, and potentially rewritten) soon.

The Taiwan Policy Act, according to Politico, would give the island major U.S. security assistance, and recognize the Taipei government as a “major non-NATO ally,” among other provisions. The Biden administration is leery that the bill would force the White House to surrender control of a major foreign policy issue to Congress, according to Politico.

In November, Risch introduced the Taiwan Deterrence Act which would put Taiwan on a par with U.S. allies like the members of NATO and Israel when it comes to U.S. arms exports.

In a March statement, he cited the example of the Russian invasion of Ukraine to argue that the Taiwan Deterrence Act demands quick passage.

“We must not waste time – U.S. interests are too vital and the situation is too urgent,” the statement said. “We cannot wait until the last minute like we did with Ukraine. We have to take unprecedented steps to counter the threat posed by the Chinese military.”

The sale is also unlikely to have trouble in the House.

The Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs is Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, who accompanied Pelosi on her trip to Taiwan.

And House Republicans have been highly critical of the Biden Administration for delays in foreign military sales to Taiwan.

Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the GOP’s ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, joined GOP Rep. Young Kim of California and House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul of Texas introducing legislation in July to “pull back the curtain” on what has caused previous fulfillment delays.

The “Arms Exports Delivery Solutions Act,” introduced July 1, “ensures that defense equipment already purchased from the U.S. by Taiwan and other allies in the region are tracked and delivered as efficiently as possible as the Chinese Communist Party eyes further aggression,” Kim said in a statement, according to CNN.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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