US lawmaker says Washington has ‘obligation’ to fulfil military sales backlog to Taiwan

TAIPEI (Reuters) – The United States has an “obligation” to fulfil its backlog of arms sales to Taiwan and there is a bipartisan effort to ensure this happens, the vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said on Friday during a trip to Taipei.

Taiwan has since last year complained of delays to U.S. weapon deliveries, such as Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, as manufacturers turned supplies to Ukraine as it battles invading Russian forces. The issue has concerned some U.S. lawmakers and officials too.

Meeting Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen at the presidential office in Taipei, Rob Wittman, who also sits on the U.S. House of Representatives’ select committee on China, said Taiwan was making an “incredible effort” for own self-defence, like extending conscription.

“We have an obligation to make sure that we fill the backlog of foreign military sales that exist now between our countries,” he said.

“I can tell you that members of the House on both sides of the aisle are focused on making sure this $19 billion backlog in foreign military sales gets fulfilled.”

The United States, Taiwan’s most important arms supplier, in July announced a Taiwan weapons aid package worth up to $345 million.

Last week, the United States also approved a possible $500 million sale to Taiwan of infrared search and track systems for F-16 fighter jets, as well as other equipment.

The United States, like most countries, has no formal relations with Chinese-claimed Taiwan, but is its most important international supporter and arms supplier.

Wittman, who is accompanied by four other Republican lawmakers, reassured on U.S. support.

“President Tsai, know that any, any hostile, unprovoked attack on Taiwan will result in a resolute reaction from the United States,” he said.

While the United States has long followed a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack, U.S. President Joe Biden has said he would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan.

Tsai told the U.S. delegation that Taiwan looked forward to coordinating with the United States and other democratic partners to jointly defend regional stability and prosperity.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)