Fri, Nov 15, 2002 - Page 3 News List

White House to assess military ties

NATIONAL DEFENSE A bill passed by Congress this week orders the Bush government to report on the feasibility of combined training between Taiwan and US armed forces

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The US Congress has ordered the George W. Bush administration to conduct a study into expanding US-Taiwan military ties, possibly including combined operational training exercises and the exchange of senior officers between the two militaries.

The lawmakers gave Bush until next spring to complete the study and report to Congress.

The measure was part of a US$393 billion bill authorizing US military programs for next year, which was approved without dissent by the House on Tuesday and by the Senate on Wednesday.

The Taiwan provision was the result of hard bargaining between House and Senate negotiators at a conference committee formed to work out differences between the House version of the bill, which contained a tough pro-Taiwan provision, and the Senate version, which contained none.

The House version was rejected by the negotiators after the Bush administration came out firmly against it. Previous administrations have also resisted congressional attempts to force closer US-Taiwan military relations.

Taiwan supporters in Washington, while disappointed that the House version was not adopted, were nevertheless cheered by the compromise language, which raised the likelihood that the issue of military-to-military relations will be raised again by next summer.

Opposition to the House version from both the administration and most senators doomed the House's tougher language, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said Wednesday.

"There was strong objection to it on the part of the administration, and most of the senators objected to it as well," Levin told the Taipei Times.

"So, given the combination of the administration's opposition plus the opposition by the majority of the senators in the conference, we simply prevailed on the House to drop that provision."

Brothers in arms

* The US Congress has ordered the George W. Bush administration to conduct a study into expanding US-Taiwan military ties.

* The measure was part of a US$393 billion bill authorizing US military programs for next year.


As for Congress' response to the administration's report, Levin said, "What will happen next year after that review is unpredictable."

Once the bill becomes law, the president has 180 days to submit a report to Congress on the possibility of "conducting combined operational training" with Taiwan and exchanging officers. The report will also detail "the progress being made in meeting United States commitments to the security of Taiwan."

The report will be issued in both classified and unclassified forms, so that its findings and conclusions can be made public.

The rejected House version had directed the president to prepare and implement a "comprehensive plan" for such joint training and officer exchanges.

Bush rejected that idea, however, while the conference negotiations were underway.

On Sept. 27, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz wrote to Levin strongly opposing the Taiwan provision in the House bill.

"We believe that the objectives of [the Taiwan provision] are best achieved by preserving the traditional statutory role of the [defense] secretary to exercise authority, direction and control over the Department of Defense to conduct such activities as are needed to support those commitments," Wolfowitz wrote.

Sources at the time said that while the Pentagon, mainly Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his key advisors, favored the enhancement of military relations between Taiwan and Washington, the White House, led by the National Security Council, opposed the provision, perhaps for fear of alienating Beijing.

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