The US House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved a resolution that aims to press the administration of US President George W. Bush to allow Taiwan to purchase advanced F-16C/D fighter aircraft to proceed, despite State Department efforts to obstruct the sale. The approval was by a voice vote without objections.
The action sends the measure to the full House, which is expected to take it up soon. The measure was passed under a special House rule, which allows it to be voted on early, but which requires a two-thirds affirmative vote for it to pass.
The action came at an unusually contentious meeting of the committee, after members squabbled over issues related to Ethiopia and Iraq. The Taiwan measure was delayed for more than two hours, presenting time restraints that prevented the committee from engaging in what was expected to be a spirited discussion of the issues and recent administration policies toward Taiwan.
The bill, which is based on US commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1978 to supply the nation with defensive weapons, states that it "shall continue to be the policy of the United States" to make available to Taiwan arms sufficient to defend itself, and that Washington must make arms sales decisions "based solely" on "the legitimate defense needs of Taiwan," with decisions shared jointly by the Congress and the administration and not based on political considerations.
Sponsors made it clear that the bill was aimed at Taiwan's efforts to buy 66 advanced F-16C/D fighters. The issue has taken on urgency because a Legislative Yuan budget measure allocating some US$448 million to start the purchase process would lapse if the first stage was not approved by the US by the end of next month.
Sponsors clearly hoped that an early House vote could prod the Bush administration -- which has so far opposed the purchases -- to let the initial phase proceed in time for the funds to be spent.
The measure, which was sponsored by both committee chairman Tom Lantos, a Democrat, and the ranking Republican, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, gathered nearly 20 co-sponsors during the short time between being introduced on Tuesday and the Wednesday morning committee meeting.
The measure was nearly derailed by a last-minute objection by the committee's Asia subcommittee chairman, Eni Faleomavega, that the measure was unneeded and would be unnecessarily provocative to China.
But time constraints forced Faleomavega, who has been considered a friend of Taiwan in the House, to declare that he would not oppose the bill, allowing it to be approved quickly by a voice vote.
Lantos voiced his "strong support" for the measure.
"Under the Taiwan Relations Act we are committed to help Taiwan defend itself," he said. "Taiwan's democratically-elected leader has made the decision to purchase additional F-16s to defend themselves, and the administration must respond positively to this very legitimate request."
Ros-Lehtinen, in a prepared statement that she did not deliver because of the time constraints, warned that China's military build-up, which was documented in a Pentagon report in May, "poses a long-term threat to Taiwan and ultimately to the US military presence in Asia."
"Taiwan's national legislature recently demonstrated a renewed commitment to safeguarding the island's national security" by passing this year's defense budget with the F-16 funds in it, Ros Lehtinen said.
"However, despite the requirements of the TRA and what Taiwanese officials have described as an `urgent and legitimate' need to upgrade its ageing air force by buying newer version F-16s, the Bush administration has not responded to Taiwan's clear interest in receiving price and availability data for these aircraft," she said.
Tancredo, one of Taiwan's most fervent US supporters, chastised Bush for sending "mixed messages" to Taiwan and for violating an inauguration pledge to oppose tyranny and oppression.
"I am beginning to think that perhaps when President Bush made his famous inaugural pronouncement, he should have added an addendum: Offer not available in Taiwan. These kinds of insincere promises and glaring inconsistencies are both disappointing and dangerous. They prompt our friends to question our reliability as an ally -- and our enemies to doubt our resolve," he said.
"The matter of Taiwan's F-16 request is just the latest example of this disturbing phenomenon," Tancredo said in remarks prepared for presentation at the meeting.
Taiwan-born congressman David Wu, a committee member, voiced support for the measure.
"For over fifty years, the United States and Taiwan have fostered a close relationship, which has been of mutual political, economic, cultural and strategic advantage. I believe that the United States should continue to support the legitimate defense needs of Taiwan," he said in a statement.
It took director Chong Keat Aun (張吉安) nearly a decade to complete Snow in Midsummer (五月雪), a deft chronicle of Malaysia’s May 13 incident told through one woman’s search for her brother and father. Although only his second feature, it led the field at yesterday’s Golden Horse Awards with nine nominations. Chong said it had been a struggle to get people to share their memories of the intercommunal violence following the 1969 national election, known among the country’s ethnic Chinese community as “513.” “My father, for example, would shut the conversation down if my mother or grandma even mentioned the topic,” Chong said
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday said that a surge in respiratory illnesses in China has been caused by at least seven types of pathogens, and small children, elderly people and immunocompromised people should temporarily avoid unnecessary visits to China. The recent outbreak of respiratory illnesses in China is mainly in the north and among children, CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said on Monday. Data released by the Chinese National Health Commission on Sunday showed that among children aged one to four, the main pathogens were influenza viruses and rhinoviruses, while among children aged five to 14, the main pathogens
A new poll of Taiwanese voters found the top opposition candidate for president jumping past the ruling party’s hopeful into the lead position ahead of January’s election — the latest twist in a drama-filled race. Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) had an approval rating of 31.9 percent versus 29.2 percent for the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate Vice President William Lai (賴清德), the poll released yesterday by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation showed. The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), ranked third with 23.6 percent, according to the survey conducted
A New Taipei City hotpot restaurant could be fined after a rat dropped from the ceiling and landed on a customer’s plate last week, the New Taipei City Department of Health said yesterday after conducting an inspection. A woman recently posted on the “I am a Banciao resident” (我是板橋人) social media group saying that she had been eating with a friend at Chien Tu Shabu Shabu Hotpot Restaurant’s Shuangshi B branch in Banciao District (板橋). “While still eating, a big rat suddenly dropped down from the ceiling, landing on a plate next to a hotpot,” she said. “Later on, a member of