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US Senate advances bill to significantly expand support for Taiwan

20220925 164423
20220925 164423

The legislation would include billions in direct military aid and drop many of the euphemisms used to avoid upsetting China.

A US Senate committee has taken the first step toward legislation that would significantly enhance US military support for Taiwan, including potentially billions of dollars in additional security assistance, as the self-governing island comes under increasing pressure. by China.

The US has provided Taiwan with weapons to defend itself under decades-old legislation, but the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 would go further by providing $4.5 billion in security assistance over four years. It also establishes sanctions against Beijing if it uses force to try to seize the island, which it considers as its own, and supports Taipei’s participation in international organizations.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee backed the legislation 17-5 on Wednesday, despite concerns about the bill among members of President Joe Biden’s administration and anger from Beijing over the move.

The sponsors said the bill would be the most comprehensive restructuring of US policy toward the island since the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which was passed after Washington switched formal diplomatic recognition to Beijing and ordered to the US, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people of Taiwan.”

“We need to be clear-eyed about what we’re up against,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, the committee’s Democratic chairman, while emphasizing that the US is not seeking war or escalating tensions with Beijing.

“If we want to make sure Taiwan has a fighting chance, we must act now,” said Sen. Jim Risch, the committee’s top Republican, arguing that any change to Taiwan’s status quo would have “disastrous effects” on the US economy. and the country. security.

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The bill still needs to be approved by the full Senate and House before it can become law.

The White House has not said whether Biden will sign the legislation, though with strong bipartisan support, Congress could override any potential veto.

Clarity over ambiguity

The new legislation moves forward amid rising tensions over Taiwan after a visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi prompted China to host days of large-scale air and sea military exercises in and around the island. .

Taiwan accused Beijing of trying to change the status quo on the island, and the presidential office thanked the Senate for its latest show of support, saying the bill would “help promote the partnership between Taiwan and the United States in many ways.” including security and economy. cooperation.

The United States has pursued a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on Taiwan for years, and when the bill was introduced in June, Beijing said it would be “forced to take resolute countermeasures” if Washington took action that harmed China’s interests.

The bill does not propose that the US formally recognize Taiwan, but it does include an end to many of the loopholes and euphemisms that have been used so as not to anger China.

The de facto embassy, ​​now known as the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, would be renamed the Taiwan Representative Office and the US government would be instructed to interact with Taiwan as it would with any government.

The top US envoy in Taipei, now called the director of the American Institute in Taiwan, would be renamed the office’s “representative” and would need Senate confirmation, much like a US ambassador.

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The proposed legislation would designate Taiwan as a “major non-NATO ally,” a status for America’s closest military partners outside the transatlantic alliance. And in a reflection of changing dynamics since the 1979 law, the bill says the US will provide weapons “conducive to deterring acts of aggression” by China rather than simply “defensive” weapons.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration was in contact with lawmakers about the legislation.

“We appreciate the strong bipartisan support for Taiwan and want to work with Congress to strengthen it,” he said.

The Taiwan bill could be incorporated into broader legislation such as the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill-setting policy for the Department of Defense, which is expected to pass later this year. .

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