Two US senators on Thursday introduced a bill to significantly enhance support for Taiwan, including provisions for billions of US dollars in security assistance and changes to a decades-old law undergirding Washington’s unofficial ties with Taipei.
The US, which accuses China of ramping up military coercion toward Taiwan, is its main supporter and arms supplier, a point of increasing friction between Washington and Beijing, whose relations are already at their lowest point in decades.
The senators’ draft Taiwan policy act threatens severe sanctions against China for any aggression against Taiwan and would provide US$4.5 billion in foreign military financing over the next four years, as well as designate Taiwan a “major non-NATO ally,” the bill said.
The sponsors — US Senator Bob Menendez, who chairs the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and US Senator Lindsey Graham — said it would be the most comprehensive restructuring of US policy toward Taiwan since the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which has since the US opened relations with Beijing been the bedrock of Washington’s engagement with Taiwan.
“As Beijing continues to seek to coerce and isolate Taiwan, there should be no doubt or ambiguity about the depth and strength of our determination to stand with the people of Taiwan and their democracy,” Menendez said in a statement.
He said the bill sent a clear message that China should not make the same mistakes Russia made in invading Ukraine.
“The danger will only grow worse if we show weakness in the face of Chinese threats and aggression toward Taiwan,” Graham said.
Senate aides said the pair hoped to have the committee vote to send the bill to the senate floor as early as next week.
China’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the proposed legislation.
One US official familiar with the bill said some of its elements made US President Joe Biden’s administration and the US Department of State uneasy given concerns it could antagonize China.
Any legislation would also have to pass the US House of Representatives, and another expansive bill intended to boost US competitiveness with China has been languishing in the US Congress for months.
The White House and state department did not respond to a request for comment.
Should it become law as currently written, the bill would “prioritize and expedite” arms sales to Taiwan until Congress determines the threat to the nation has significantly abated, as well as direct the US secretary of defense to establish a training program to increase Taiwan and US armed forces interoperability.
The US president would be required to impose sanctions on Chinese officials, including its president, in response to “significant escalation in hostile action in or against Taiwan,” such as undermining or overthrowing the government or occupying the nation.
It would amend parts of the Taiwan Relations Act, including by adding that US arms provisions to Taiwan be “conducive to deterring acts of aggression” by China.
It would also push the state department to seek negotiations to rename Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington the “Taiwan Representative Office” and would elevate the role of Washington’s top official in Taiwan by requiring Senate confirmation for the post.
In Taipei, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday thanked the senators for proposing the legislation.
The bill, sponsored by heavyweights of both major US parties, demonstrated that support for Taiwan has, at least in the US Congress, superseded party lines, ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said.
The bill is seeking to warm US-Taiwan ties across all sectors, strengthen the countries’ bilateral security and trade relations, support increased Taiwanese participation on international affairs, and counteract Chinese oppression, she said.
Taiwan would continue to work closely with the US to foster peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, Ou added.
Addiitonal reporting by Yang Cheng-yu
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