By: Micaela Burrow, Daily Caller News Foundation
A coterie of U.S. defense industry representatives plan to travel to Taiwan in May for discussions on co-producing weapons and ammunition, a plan that if authorized, could ease a growing backlog of pledged weapons deliveries for Taipei, Nikkei reported.
Roughly two dozen defense contractors, headed by retired commander of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, Steven Rudder, will meet with counterparts among Taiwan’s defense industry and President Tsai Ing-Wen for talks about ways to “promote defense industry cooperation with Taiwan,” U.S. Taiwan Business Council President Rupert Hammond-Chambers told Nikkei. The trip could set in motion plans to escalate weapons production as U.S. inventories are running low from the war in Ukraine and the defense industry continues to fall further behind schedule in fulfilling orders for Taiwan.
“From a very high-level perspective, we think that co-production arrangements make sense, but we need to take a look at them on a case-by-case basis, and it has to be at the request of U.S. industry,” a senior Biden administration official told Nikkei.
Any co-production arrangement requires the State Department to issue special licenses, but Washington has already signaled it is in favor of the idea as it struggles to deliver roughly $19 billion in pledged exports to Taiwan, according to Nikkei. The trip would include the first large group of defense contractors to visit Taiwan in four years.
Taiwan’s defense industry will look to take advantage of advanced technology and drone expertise from U.S. defense contractors as well as seek an arrangement for scaling up ammunition production, Nikkei reported.
Drones, including aerial, surface and underwater varieties, are considered an asset in fending off a Chinese invasion, according to Nikkei. They can serve as surveillance vehicles or weapons while being relatively cheap and easy to procure.
“The U.S. defense industrial base is not adequately prepared for the competitive security environment that now exists,” Seth Jones, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in a January report. He suggested weapons co-production as a possible solution.
The Pentagon plans to request $1 billion in weapons using the presidential drawdown authority, a privilege controlled by the executive branch that allows the U.S. to pull from existing weapons stockpiles and has been used extensively to support Ukraine’s military, Defense News reported.
“My team is working diligently to make sure that we have the right capabilities in that particular drawdown. And of course we have that authority,” Austin said, adding that the Pentagon still needs Congress to appropriate the funds, according to Defense News.
The Biden administration may also seek increased commitment from allies and partners to shore up Taiwan’s military, a strategy intended to convince China it won’t be able to shoulder the cost of invasion, the official told Nikkei.
“We understand areas where it might make sense for some of our allies and partners who manufacture certain capabilities, for those capabilities to be made available to Taiwan,” the administration official said. “In those cases, we definitely are reaching out to those partners.”
The State Department did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.