A senior U.S. lawmaker said on Friday he was doing everything possible to speed up the delivery of weapons to Taiwan, suggesting other countries that have the arms could sell them onto the island with U.S. government permission.
Taiwan has since last year complained of delays to U.S. weapons deliveries, such as Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, as manufacturers turn supplies to Ukraine to support its defence against Russia.
Speaking to reporters on a trip to Taiwan, Michael McCaul, chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Taiwan needed to be able to access weapons given the threat it faces from China, which claims the democratically governed island as its own territory.
“On the weapons issue, I sign off on those deliveries and we are doing everything in our power to expedite this,” he said, speaking at Taiwan’s parliament where he met its speaker, You Si-kun.
There is a need to “harden” Taiwan and help its deterrence capability, he added.
McCaul said ideas for getting the arms to Taiwan faster included reprioritising weapons sales given the island is in a high threat area and “third party sales” – getting the U.S. government to allow other countries that have these weapons to provide them to Taiwan.
“We want to do everything possible to deter a very aggressive nation, Communist China, from ever thinking about landing on the shores of this beautiful island, because that would be a serious mistake for everybody.”
The United States is Taiwan’s most important arms supplier, a constant source of Chinese anger with Washington.
McCaul, a Republican, is being accompanied by seven other lawmakers on a bipartisan trip taking place the same week Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen met U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles, which Beijing condemned.
While China staged war games around Taiwan in August after then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei its reaction this time has been more muted.
Speaking at the same news conference, You said he had invited McCarthy last year to visit Taiwan before he became speaker, and You said he thought it was just a timing issue as to when McCarthy visited.
China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and has stepped up military and political pressure to try and force Taipei to accept Beijing’s sovereignty.
You said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inability to quickly capture Ukraine served as a lesson to China’s leader Xi Jinping, likening Putin’s view of Ukraine as a “delicious meal” that had turned into a fishbone stuck in his throat.
“So I believe this is a warning for Xi Jinping as well,” You said.
McCaul’s group will meet Tsai, who arrives back in Taiwan late Friday, on Saturday.