WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is cautiously examining Taiwan’s announcement Thursday of its largest defense spending increase in more than a decade, concerned that the boost will further antagonize Beijing.
Pentagon officials said they would not comment on or off the record Thursday because of the “One China” policy of the U.S. That policy recognizes Beijing as the sole independent, legal and sovereign government of China and accepts the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.
However, the U.S. sells military hardware to Taiwan and in July green-lighted $2.2 billion in weapons sales. Washington is bound by law to help provide Taiwan with the ingredients to defend itself. The hardware in July includes 108 M1A2 Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles.
Taiwan’s newly released defense budget proposal is projected to be $13.11 billion, which would be an increase of 8.3% from the current budget, according to news reports. That would be the largest yearly gain since 2008.
If approved, the defense budget would also be the highest one since records starting being kept in 2001, news reports said.
In July, China said it was ready for war over Taiwan if the island nation makes moves toward independence. China has strongly denounced arms sales from the United States to Taipei. Since July Beijing has ramped up military exercises around the island.
Also on Thursday, the top U.S. representative in Taiwan, W. Brent Christensen, praised Taiwan’s commitment to increase its defense spending.
“These investments by Taiwan are commendable, as is Taiwan’s ongoing commitment to increase the defense budget annually to ensure that Taiwan’s spending is sufficient to provide for its own self-defense needs,” Christensen said in a speech, according to news reports. “And we anticipate that these figures will continue to grow commensurate with the threats Taiwan faces.”
Christensen is the director of the American Institute in Taiwan, which has served as the de facto U.S. Embassy in Taiwan since formal diplomatic relations ended in 1979 when recognition switched to Beijing.