Sat, Nov 02, 2019 - Page 3 News List

US senator introduces ‘skinny’ version of defense bill, omitting Taiwan affairs

Staff writer, with CNA, WASHINGTON

The content of the US Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal 2020 that touches on Taiwan affairs has not been kept in a curtailed version of the bill, which is hoped will be passed by the end of this year.

US Senator James Inhofe, chairman of the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, on Tuesday said in a statement that he introduced the “skinny” NDAA for fiscal 2020 “to ensure that critical defense programs are authorized.”

The move was made amid intense negotiations and voting on government budget bills for the new fiscal year in the US Congress before it enters recess in the middle of next month.

Almost every part of the NDAA related to military cooperation and exchanges with other nations, including Taiwan, have been deleted in the 67-page streamlined version, except for parts relating to the militarily and politically tense Middle East.

Although Inhofe proposed a streamlined version, negotiations between the US House of Representatives and the Senate on the NDAA were not halted, people familiar with the matter said.

Inhofe’s edition might just be a backup, one source said, adding that Congress needs more time to discuss several other issues, including an impeachment inquiry against US President Donald Trump.

It is also possible that Inhofe wants to use the streamlined bill to press Congress to pass the NDAA as soon as possible, the source said.

“I’m introducing this simple, politics-free version of the annual defense authorization bill today to guarantee that we are able to fulfill our responsibilities to our service members and maintain critical national security programs — a goal all conferees share,” Inhofe said in the statement.

“Given our deadline, I want to preserve all options for fulfilling our constitutional duty,” he said. “I believe we can still reach a final, bipartisan agreement on a comprehensive defense authorization bill, just as we have for the last 58 years.”

The Senate passed its version of the NDAA on June 27, before the House passed its version on July 12. Since then, talks have been conducted to produce a final version of the bill that would be accepted by both chambers.

However, no agreement has been reached thus far. Both versions include a section supporting continued US arms sales to Taiwan.

A version of the bill released on June 19 says that Congress expresses its sense in Section 1248 on Taiwan that Washington should “continue to support the acquisition by Taiwan of appropriate defensive weapons ... with a particular emphasis on asymmetric warfare, information sharing, air defense and maritime capabilities.”

The US government is urged to improve the “predictability of arms sales” to Taiwan by ensuring timely review and response to its requests for defense articles and services, it says.

The bill also calls on the US secretary of defense to promote policies concerning cooperation and exchanges that enhance the security of Taiwan, including exchanges between senior Taiwanese and US defense officials and general officers, in accordance with the US’ Taiwan Travel Act.

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