Wed, Jun 20, 2018 - Page 1 News List

US bill touting military exchanges passes

SECURITY COOPERATION:The US Senate’s bill calls on Washington to support Taiwan’s acquisition of defensive weapons, especially those for asymmetric and undersea warfare

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Presidential Office spokesman Sydney Lin addresses a news conference in an undated photo.

Photo: Lee Hsin-fang, Taipei Times

The Taiwanese government yesterday welcomed the US Senate’s passage of its annual defense spending bill, which includes a provision calling on Washington to strengthen defense and security cooperation with Taiwan.

The US Senate on Monday passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2019 with a vote of 85 to 10.

Under Section 1243 of the draft bill published by the US Senate, the US Department of Defense is urged to strengthen defense and security cooperation with Taiwan “to support the development of capable, ready and modern defense forces necessary for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.”

The section also calls on Washington to support the acquisition of defensive weapons by Taiwan in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, particularly those needed for asymmetric warfare and undersea warfare, as well as to promptly review and respond to Taiwan’s requests for defense equipment.

Washington is also urged to take action to enhance the security of Taiwan through military exchanges, including US participation in appropriate Taiwanese exercises, such as the annual Han Kuang exercise, and Taiwanese participation in US drills, the bill states.

Support should also be provided to “exchanges between senior defense officials and general officers of the US and Taiwan consistent with the Taiwan Travel Act,” the bill said, referring to the act promulgated on March 16 that encourages high-level visits between US and Taiwanese officials.

The passage of the bill came weeks after the US House of Representatives passed its version of the NDAA in a 351-to-66 vote on May 24. The House version bears a few differences from that of the Senate, including a request under Section 1253 that the US secretary of defense consult with Taiwanese officials to conduct a comprehensive assessment on ways to enhance and reform Taiwan’s military forces.

It stipulates that a report should then be submitted to the appropriate US congressional committees within a year of the NDAA’s enactment, detailing a summary of the assessment and a list of recommendations and planned actions.

In addition, the House version does not call for mutual participation by US and Taiwanese officers in each other’s exercises.

The US Senate and US House of Representatives must iron out the differences before the bill can be signed by US President Donald Trump.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) yesterday expressed his gratitude to the US Congress for including military exchanges in the latest NDAA version.

“As there are some differences between the NDAA versions of the US House and the US Senate ... they will have to negotiate on the differences before the bill can be signed by President Trump,” Lee said, adding that the ministry would pay close attention to further developments.

Presidential Office spokesman Sidney Lin (林鶴明) thanked the US Senate for supporting Taiwan’s national security and attaching importance to it.

“We will continue to engage in talks with the US government’s executive branch to strengthen security cooperation between the two nations,” Lin said.

Taiwan is also conducting a systematic upgrade of its defense capability to better safeguard the nation and ensure peace and stability in the region, Lin said.

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