The US House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a bill that contains two key amendments seeking to enhance Taiwan's protection from China's military threats and demanding more information on administration efforts to promote Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization (WHO).
The House approved the bill 382 to 42, after unanimously approving the inclusion of the two provisions regarding Taiwan the day before.
The authorization bill now goes to a conference committee with the Senate to work out differences with the Senate version of the State Department legislation.
It is uncertain whether the measures about Taiwan will survive the conference. In recent years, the Senate has been loath to go along with a number of pro-Taipei amendments added to State Department, defense and other authorization bills.
One amendment, which is a non-binding "sense of Congress" measure, calls on China to dismantle the hundreds of short-range ballistic missiles it has deployed opposite Taiwan. If it does not do so, the bill calls on US President George W. Bush to OK the sale of the sophisticated AEGIS system to Taipei.
It also urges Bush to seek from China an immediate renunciation of the use of force against Taiwan, and to impress on Beijing that he will reject any deal, such as that raised by former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) last year, to reduce the missile force in exchange for curbs on US arms sales to Taiwan. The amendment also asserts that Taiwan's future should be determined peacefully and with the express consent of the people of Taiwan.
Representative Robert Andrews, a leading proponent of the amendment, said, "This resolution urges the administration to let the PRC government know that America will no longer tolerate the constant harassment targeted toward the people of Taiwan."
He described the amendment as "a step toward protecting a fellow democracy from the threat of Chinese aggression."
The second amendment, introduced by the four co-chairmen of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, insists on annual reports from the secretary of state on what the administration is doing to push Taiwan's bid to gain observer status in the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.
In a statement supporting the legislation on the House floor, Representative Sherrod Brown, a caucus co-chair and leading Taiwan supporter in Congress, said, "although no vote on Taiwan's status was held this year at the WHA, significant international political progress was made. Congress stands united on Taiwan's participation in the WHA."
This year, the House approved a bill backing Taiwan in the WHA in March, but "the Senate version encountered a procedural delay," so Bush did not sign it until May 29, after the Geneva meeting ended, Brown said.
Representative Robert Wexler, another caucus co-chair, complained about the WHA's lack of a Taiwan vote.
"Unconscionably, the WHO's decisions were based not upon its concern for the people of Taiwan but rather on short-sighted political considerations and China's rejection of Taiwan's membership in the WHO," Wexler said.
"This amendment makes a clear and uncompromising declaration of US support for Taiwan's candidacy for observer status in the WHO. I urge the Bush administration, which as taken bold steps to assist Taiwan in the past, to bring this issue to a vote at the World Health Assembly in May 2004," he said.