Nearly three dozen members of the US House of Representatives sent a letter to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (
The US representatives, all big supporters of Taiwan, include House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde and three of the four co-chairmen of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus.
"The PRC's `Anti-Secession' Law and aggressive military build-up demonstrate continued hostility toward the people of Taiwan," the letter says. "Taiwan's procurement of the defense systems provided for within the special budget is vital to maintaining peace and prosperity across the [Taiwan] Strait."
"Failure to pass the special budget," the congressmen add, "has raised concerns in the United States about Taiwan's ability to defend itself against potential aggression. We encourage you to affirm your party's commitment to a strong defense force and a strong US-Taiwan relationship by supporting these purchases in full and without further delay."
The systems involved in the special budget are eight diesel-electric submarines, 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, and a dozen Patriot air and missile defense systems (PAC-3s).
"Delaying the acquisition of these priority capabilities will make Taiwan increasingly vulnerable in the second half of the decade, a time-frame the [US] Department of Defense and the [Taiwan] Ministry of National Defense judge especially dangerous," the letter says.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a measure calling for intensified high-level US-Taiwan military cooperation through the exchange of senior military officers.
The measure was part of a bill authorizing US military programs for the fiscal year 2006, which begins on Oct. 1. The measure was approved by the House late Wednesday evening by a 390-39 vote, and sent on to the Senate.
It would promote the exchange of general and flag officers and senior civilian officials at the level of deputy assistant secretary of defense or above. That could technically allow the US secretary of defense and Taiwan's defense minister free rein to visit each other's country.
The exchanges would focus on threat analysis, military doctrine, force planning, logistical support, intelligence collection and analysis, and operational tactics, techniques and procedures.
Prospects for the provision in the Senate are uncertain. While the House has passed such measures in recent years, they have consistently failed to gain momentum in the Senate, where the Armed Services Committee has consistently rejected them.
Also in the House, a subcommittee of the International Relations Committee on Thursday approved a measure promoting visits to Washington by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and other high-level leaders.
The measure was added to a bill authorizing State Department and other foreign affairs activities for next year and 2007 by the subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations.
The non-binding resolution said that "it is in the national interest of the United States to communicate directly with the democratically-elected and appointed officials of Taiwan, including the president of Taiwan."
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