Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators yesterday lauded the US’ National Defense Authorization Act for the next fiscal year, which includes an initiative analysts believe would bolster Taiwan’s defenses against China.
The US Senate Committee on Armed Services on June 11 voted 25-2 in favor of approving the act, which would include the Pacific Deterrence Initiative — a US$6.9 billion program that would expand on the US’ 2018 Asia Reassurance Initiative Act and bolster the US’ naval presence in the region.
DPP legislators Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) and Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) yesterday welcomed the initiative, saying that it fulfills the US’ promise to defend regional security.
A report published to the Web site of Voice of America on Thursday last week cited analysts who said that the act was likely aimed at countering recent military aggression by China including its sending of a survey ship into Vietnamese waters earlier this year and its trespassing into Taiwan’s air defense zone five times so far this month.
If ratified by US President Donald Trump, the act would see US$1.4 billion budgeted for the initiative next year, and US$5.5 billion spent on it in 2022.
Wang said he believed that the act meant that Taiwan-US military cooperation would increase, and that Taiwan would become more important from a strategic point of view.
Tsai said the US’ increased military investment in the Asia-Pacific meant that it recognized the changing situation in the region, and it believed that maintaining peace and stability in the region was in everyone’s interest.
National Taiwan University associate professor Chen Shih-min (陳世民) said that the upcoming US presidential election is likely playing a part in Washington’s posturing toward China, particularly as the US’ economy has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
US senators probably believe they could rally support from smaller Asia-Pacific ally countries that have been threatened by China, but there is no guarantee that Trump would ratify the act, Chen said, adding that it would depend on the state of US-China relations when the act crosses Trump’s desk.
If the act is ratified, it would most certainly result in a backlash from China due to the implications for Taiwan, which China would see as “meddling with its internal affairs,” he said.
“Although Trump likes to play the ‘China card,’ at the end of the day he is a businessman. While he’s seeking re-election he is unlikley to do anything that could impact the US’ agricultural trade with China,” Chen said.
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