$8 Billion US Military Aid Package to Taiwan Will 'Boost Confidence' in Region: President-Elect

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- An $8 billion defense package approved by the U.S. House of Representatives over the weekend will "strengthen the deterrence against authoritarianism in the West Pacific ally chain," Taiwan's President-elect Lai Ching-te said Tuesday, in a reference to key rival China.

The funding will also "help ensure peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and also boost confidence in the region" Lai, currently Taiwan's vice president, told visiting Michigan Representatives Lisa McClain, a Republican, and Democrat Dan Kildee at a meeting at the Presidential Office Building in the capital Taipei.

In the face of "authoritarian expansionism," Taiwan is "determined to safeguard democracy and also safeguard our homeland," Lai said.

Also known as William Lai, U.S.-educated former medical researcher is despised by Beijing for his opposition to political unification with the mainland. In recent elections, the pro-unification Nationalists won a narrow majority in the legislature, but their influence on foreign policy and other national issues remains limited.

The Senate will vote Tuesday on $95 billion in war aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

The package covers a wide range of parts and services aimed at maintaining and and upgrading Taiwan's military hardware. Separately, Taiwan has signed billions in contracts with the U.S. for latest-generation F-16V fighter jets, M1 Abrams main battle tanks and the HIMARS rocket system, which the U.S. has also supplied to Ukraine.

Taiwan has also been expanding its own defense industry, building submarines and trainer jets. Next month it plans to commission its third and fourth domestically designed and built stealth corvettes to counter the Chinese navy. as part of a strategy of asymmetrical warfare in which a smaller force counters its larger opponent by using cutting edge or nonconventional tactics and weaponry.

Lai, of the pro-independence ruling Democratic Progressive Party, won the January election handily and takes over next month from President Tsai Ing-wen, whom Beijing has sought to isolate for the past eight years.

China is determined to annex the island, which it considers its own territory, by force if necessary and has been advertising that threat with daily incursions into waters and air space around Taiwan by navy ships and warplanes. It has also sought to pick away Taiwan's few remaining formal diplomatic partners.

While Washington and Taipei have no formal diplomatic ties in deference to Beijing, McClain emphasized the need for the entire world to observe the strength of the relationship.

"Peace is our goal. But to do that, we have to have relationships and we value your relationship. Not only militarily, but economically," she said.

Kildee said the timing of the visit was especially significant given the recent passage of the funding bill to "provide very important support to insure security in this region."

"It's important for the people of Taiwan, it's important for the people in the United States, it's important for the entire world," Kildee said.