By Mike Stone and Idrees Ali
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States is expected to announce as early as Friday that it will provide Taiwan with military assistance worth more than $300 million, two U.S. officials told Reuters, a move likely to anger China.
Congress authorized up to $1 billion worth of Presidential Drawdown Authority weapons aid for Taiwan in the 2023 budget.
One official, speaking on the condition anonymity, said the package is expected to be worth around $330 million.
The White House declined to comment.
The formal announcement is not expected to include a list of weapon systems being provided.
In recent weeks, four sources said the package was expected to include four unarmed MQ-9A reconnaissance drones, but noted their inclusion could fall through as officials work through details on removing some of the advanced equipment from the drones that only the U.S. Air Force is allowed access to.
Another issue was who would pay for the alterations to the drones, one of the people briefed on the matter said. Reuters could not determine if the drones were still part of the package.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Taiwan had previously agreed to purchase four, more advanced, MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones, made by General Atomics, which are slated for delivery in 2025.
China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has increased military pressure on the island over the past three years. It has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan strongly rejects Chinese sovereignty claims and says only Taiwanese people can decide their future.
Foreshadowing the upcoming aid, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on May 16 told a Senate panel: “And I’m pleased that the United States will soon provide significant additional security assistance to Taiwan through the Presidential Drawdown Authority that Congress authorized last year.”
Earlier this month, the top U.S. general said the United States and its allies need to speed up the delivery of weapons to Taiwan in the coming years to help the island defend itself.
Beijing has repeatedly demanded the United States, Taiwan’s most important arms supplier, halt the sale of weapons to the island.
U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had said Taiwan needed weapons like air defense systems and those that could target ships from land.
Taiwan has said its defense spending this year will focus on preparing weapons and equipment for a “total blockade” by China, including parts for F-16 fighters and replenishing weapons.
Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA) has been used on an emergency basis to expedite security assistance to Ukraine by allowing the president to transfer articles and services from U.S. stockpiles. The Taiwan PDA, however, is a non-emergency authority approved by Congress last year.
Taiwan has complained of delays to U.S. weapon deliveries, such as Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, as shipments from U.S. stockpiles moved to Ukraine.
(Reporting by Mike Stone and Idrees Ali; editing by Chris Sanders, Deepa Babington and Lincoln Feast.)