US House bill urging arms sales passed

CONTINUED SUPPORT::The annual defense bill says that the US government should promptly review and respond to Taiwan’s requests for military weapons and services

Staff writer, with CNA, Washington

Sun, Jul 14, 2019 - Page 3

The US House of Representatives on Friday voted to pass the US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2020, which includes a section supporting continued US arms sales to Taiwan.

According to a June 19 version of the bill, the US Congress expresses its intention toward Taiwan in Section 1248, instructing Washington to “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 also urged to improve the “predictability of arms sales” to Taiwan by promptly reviewing and responding to the nation’s requests to the US for defense articles and services, the bill says.

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

The House passed the annual defense spending bill by an unusually narrow vote of 220 to 197, with no Republicans backing the legislation in what is normally a bipartisan process.

On June 27, the US Senate passed a different version of the NDAA, but it includes a similar section on Taiwan.

The House and the Senate must pass identical versions of the bill before it can be signed into law by US President Donald Trump, so they are to meet in a conference committee to reconcile the two versions.

Passage of the NDAA by the House came hours after Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Geng Shuang (耿爽) announced Beijing’s plan to impose sanctions on US companies involved in selling arms to Taiwan, which Geng said constituted “a serious violation of the one China principle.”

On Monday last week, the US had announced a US$2.22 billion arms package to Taiwan that included 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger missiles, four Stinger fly-to-buy missiles, as well as related equipment and support.

Not included in the deal were the 66 F-16V jets that the Ministry of National Defense requested in February, but US Representative Michael McCaul told reporters, after a banquet hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in New York on Friday for several members of Congress, that the White House is expected to send a request to Congress for the F-16Vs to be approved.

“We just recently approved US$2 billion in military assistance to Taiwan so that Taiwan can defend herself,” McCaul said, adding that the potential signing of a free-trade agreement between Taiwan and the US was also discussed at the banquet.

On Thursday, Tsai embarked on a 12-day visit to four diplomatic allies in the Caribbean, but was to visit in New York for two days before departing for Haiti early yesterday and flying on to St Kitts and Nevis last night.