2024-0215: U.S. Senate Passes Security Aid Package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan; Record Six Chinese Balloons Fly across Taiwan

Taiwan Thanks U.S. Senate for Passing Foreign Aid Package, Keeping Eye on House Decision

A senior Taiwanese diplomat expressed gratitude to the U.S. Senate for passing a foreign aid package that includes funding for Taiwan, saying that it again exemplified bipartisan support for Taiwan in the U.S. Congress.

On February 13, the U.S. Senate voted to pass the “National Security Act, 2024” (H.R.815) with a 70-29 vote. The bill includes the “National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2024” to provide a US$95.34 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.

This national security supplemental package includes US$4.83 billion to assist Taiwan and other U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific region and to deter aggression by the Chinese government. It also provides US$60.06 billion to support Ukraine in its war with Russia, and US$14.1 billion for Israel in security assistance.

According to the version of the bill passed by the Senate, up to US$1.9 billion (out of the proposed total of US$4.83 billion for the Indo-Pacific) would be made available to Taiwan until September 30, 2025, to procure new weapon systems and services from the U.S. and to fund military education and training.

On February 15, Wang Liang-yu, head of the North American Affairs Department in Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the ministry would continue to closely monitor the bill’s progress in the U.S. House of Representatives, after House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) warned that the Republican-led House would not feel “rushed” to pass the bill because it did not contain provisions for U.S. border security.

On the question of how the bill’s potential stall in the House might affect Taiwan, Wang did not give a direct answer, only saying that bipartisan support for Taiwan’s security needs remains strong on Capitol Hill.

“We will continue to work closely with our friends in the U.S., based on a solid and longstanding foundation,” she added.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202402150008
[2] U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations: https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/majority/murray-statement-on-senate-passage-of-national-security-supplemental
[3] Taipei Time: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2024/02/14/2003813547

Record Six Chinese Balloons Fly across Taiwan in 24 Hours

A record six Chinese balloons flew across Taiwan between 6 a.m. on February 10 and 6 a.m. on February 11, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) said.

In its daily report on Chinese military activities, the MND said the six balloons were among eight that crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait during the 24-hour period.

The eight balloons were detected between 10:05 a.m. and 3:34 p.m. on February 10 at altitudes ranging from 12,000 feet to 35,000 feet, the ministry said.

Of the six that crossed Taiwan, some flew over Keelung in the north, while the others flew near Taichung, it added.

The ministry did not comment on the type of balloons involved or say why China had sent them across the median line.

The median line of the Taiwan Strait served for decades as an unofficial boundary between Taiwan and China. However, the Chinese military has sent more aircraft, warships, and drones across it since August 2022.

Since the beginning of 2024, China has also begun sending balloons over Taiwan, according to the MND.

A Taiwanese military spokesman said last month in January that the daily sending of balloons to Taiwan was part of Chinese “gray zone” tactics and meant to “harass and rattle the Taiwanese people.”

Speaking at a press event on January 9, Colonel Wang Chia-chun, deputy head of MND’s joint operations planning section, said shooting down the Chinese balloons would be “a waste of ammunition” and the exact response China wants from Taiwan.

Taiwan’s standard military response is to issue alerts to the relevant authorities and to closely monitor the balloons’ movements, particularly if they are found to be flying near more densely populated areas, he added.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202402110005
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2024/02/12/2003813425