The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed its annual defense policy bill, which includes provisions recommending that Taiwan be included in next year’s Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) and enhanced cooperation between Taiwan and the US National Guard.
The House approved the US$777.9 billion National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 in a 316-113 vote.
The 1,390-page bill includes three major provisions related to Taiwan under sections 1243, 1247 and 1248.
Section 1248 recommends that the US invite Taiwan’s navy to participate in next year’s RIMPAC.
Taiwan has never been invited to participate in the event, which is the world’s largest international maritime military exercise, hosted every two years by the US Pacific Fleet near Hawaii.
RIMPAC started in 1971 as an annual exercise to foster relationships between the US and its allies, and protect trade and sea lines in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
Section 1243 calls for a report, to be issued no later than Feb. 15, on the feasibility of enhancing cooperation between Taiwan and the US National Guard.
The provision requires an evaluation of bolstering cooperation on a range of activities, including disaster and emergency response, cyberdefense and communication security, military medicine, cultural and educational exchanges, and training Taiwan’s military reserve.
Section 1247 reiterates the importance of the US’ Taiwan Relations Act and the “six assurances” as the foundation of ties between Taipei and Washington.
The provision calls for practical training and military exercises with Taiwan; exchanges between Taiwanese and US defense officials at the strategic, policy and functional levels, especially for the purposes of enhancing cooperation on defense planning; improving the interoperability of the Taiwanese and US militaries; and improving Taiwan’s reserve force.
Additional sections request reports on military and security developments involving China, the expansion of Chinese influence in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Beijing’s attempts to poach Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in the region.
The US Senate version of the bill was approved by its Committee on Armed Services on July 23 and is expected to be considered by the full Senate next month.
Should the Senate pass its version of the bill, a House-Senate conference would be called to reconcile the differences before both chambers vote to send a final version to US President Joe Biden to sign.
In Taipei, the Ministry of National Defense yesterday said that it would assess participating in RIMPAC based on its defense operational needs and would seek to join exercises that are conducive to regional peace.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs thanked the US Congress for promoting military cooperation and exchanges between Taiwan and the US in its annual defense policy bills over the past few years, adding that it would monitor the review process and maintain close contact with US government agencies to deepen security cooperation between the two countries.
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