The White House is lobbying Democratic US senators to put the brakes on a bill that would alter US policy toward Taiwan, including by designating it as a major non-NATO ally, people familiar with the matter said.
The legislation would also provide Taiwan with US$4.5 billion in security aid and support its participation in international organizations.
It is sponsored by US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez, a Democrat, and US Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican. Both senators are harsh critics of China.
“The White House has significant concerns. I have significant concerns,” said US Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat and member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The committee is delaying work on the legislation until September, and it could be rewritten, Murphy said.
The committee had planned to vote on the bill on Wednesday.
The US has treated Taiwan as a major non-NATO ally since the administration of former US president George W. Bush. The bill would formalize that designation.
In an op-ed published on Wednesday in the New York Times, Menendez said the US strategy must be geared to “deter and constrain Beijing’s problematic behavior.”
“As China challenges us across every dimension of national security — militarily, economically and diplomatically and on values — we are laying out a new vision that ensures our country is positioned to defend Taiwan for decades to come,” Menendez wrote.
Graham rebuked the White House for trying to stymie the bill.
“It’s a miscalculation of how to keep the world in order. At every turn they take the weakest path,” Graham said. “If you put this on the floor of the Senate, it would pass overwhelmingly.”
Officials in the White House consider the legislation counterproductive, as it would interfere with a decades-old approach of “strategic ambiguity” toward Taiwan’s status, the sources said.
“I’m not sure this is the moment to throw out 40 years of policy,” Murphy said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said that its understanding is that the bill still has wide support in the committee.
It also said it would stay in contact with committee members to monitor the bill’s development.
Additional reporting by Lu Yi-hsuan
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