The US House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs voted unanimously on Thursday to adopt two new laws to substantially boost US relations with Taiwan.
While the bills may pass the full House, they are likely to fail in the Senate where US President Barack Obama’s administration has the votes to defeat them.
Nevertheless, the bills are an indication of just how much bipartisan support Taiwan enjoys on Capitol Hill.
“This legislation is designed to address the drift and lack of strategic thinking that has hurt the relationship [between the US and Taiwan] in recent years,” committee Chairperson Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said.
She said there were a growing number of policy revisionists and apologists who wanted to use Taiwan as a “bargaining chip” to placate China.
“It was due to concern over these voices of appeasement that I felt it necessary to further strengthen and clarify our relations,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “These concerns have only been amplified by the administration’s regrettable and shortsighted decision not to sell the next generation F-16C/D fighters to Taiwan, despite growing evidence of China’s increasing military threat to the island.”
“Taiwan needs those F-16s and she needs them now to defend the skies over the Taiwan Strait. And Taiwan needs diesel submarines, and she needs them now to protect her territorial waters from the rapidly expanding PLA [People’s Liberation Army] Navy,” she added.
The bills are the Taiwan Policy Act of 2011, H.R. 2918, “to strengthen and clarify the commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the US and Taiwan,” and the Taiwan Airpower Modernization Act, H.R. 2992, “to provide Taiwan with critically needed multirole fighter aircraft.”
“The bills considered and adopted today will help ensure that Taiwan’s peace, prosperity and security will be maintained for the next three decades and beyond,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
The second bill — if passed by both the House and Senate — would require Obama to sell 66 advanced F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan.
“While the recent agreement by the US to upgrade Taiwan’s existing fleet of F-16s is a step in the right direction, Taiwan also urgently needs new advanced combat aircraft to help meet the growing menace from communist China,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
Ros-Lehtinen said that it was “long past due” for the White House to “cease its dithering” and sell Taiwan the F-16C/Ds.
Howard Berman, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said he was a strong supporter of Taiwan and that both of the bills would “bolster our bilateral relationship with an important friend and ally.”
Formosan Association for Public Affairs president Bob Yang later said: “This is a powerful signal to the people of Taiwan and the Taiwanese-American community in the US.”
He said the bills recognized the importance of the US-Taiwan relationship for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and for safeguarding freedom and democracy.
The Taiwan Policy Act contains more than 20 provisions that will “broaden and deepen” the bilateral relationship between the US and Taiwan in many ways, including trade and commercial ties, participation in international organizations and through the sale of defensive arms.