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US Taiwan Support Bill Advances Despite China Threats

The Taiwan Policy Act includes $4.5bn in security assistance for Taiwan and backs its inclusion in international organisations


Taiwan's President Tsai says China's provocations in recent weeks have helped make the island's defenders better organized.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen talks to an airforce pilot during a military exercise simulating a Chinese invasion in 2019. File photo: Military News Agency via Reuters.

The US has approved legislation to bolster its military support for Taiwan amid China’s increased military pressure around the island.

The Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, which included $4.5 billion in security assistance for Taiwan over four years and supports its participation in international organisations, was signed off by US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.

The act also threatens extensive sanctions on China in the event of hostilities across the strait separating the mainland from Taiwan.

“If we want to ensure Taiwan has a fighting chance, we must act now,” said Senator Jim Risch, the committee’s top Republican, arguing that any change in the status quo for Taiwan would have “disastrous effects” for the US economy and national security.

The committee backed the Act by 17-5, despite concerns about the bill in US President Joe Biden’s administration and anger from Beijing.

China ‘Countermeasures’ Threat

When the bill was first introduced in June, China responded by saying it would be “compelled to take resolute countermeasures” if Washington took actions that harmed China’s interests.

Sponsors said the bill would be the most comprehensive restructuring of US policy on the island since the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 – the bedrock of US engagement with what China views as one of its provinces.

“We need to be clear-eyed about what we are facing,” said Senator Bob Menendez, the committee’s Democratic chairman, while stressing that the United States does not seek war or heightened tensions with Beijing.

Taiwan’s presidential office thanked the Senate for its latest show of support, saying the bill will “help promote the Taiwan-US partnership in many ways,” including security and economic cooperation.

“We haven’t discussed any specifics,” Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to Washington, told reporters at an event at the Capitol when asked if she has had discussions with the White House over specific sanctions.

Taiwan Strait ‘Status Quo’

“We talked about integrated deterrence in a broader sense of the need to explore different tools to ensure that the status quo in the Taiwan Strait can be maintained,” Hsiao said.

She said she had expressed “gratitude” to Congress for the legislation. “Given the complication of different views here in the United States too, we’re hoping that we can reach some consensus on security, which is our top priority,” she said.

The committee’s approval paved the way for a vote in the full Senate, but there has been no word on when that might take place. To become law, it must also pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Biden or win enough support to override a veto.

The White House said on Tuesday it was in talks with members of Congress on how to change the act to ensure that it does not change long-standing US policy toward Taiwan that it considers effective.

The Taiwan bill is likely to be folded into a larger piece of legislation expected to pass late this year, such as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual bill setting policy for the Department of Defense.

  • Reuters, with additional editing from Alfie Habershon

 

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Alfie Habershon

Alfie is a Reporter at Asia Financial. He previously lived in Mumbai reporting on India's economy and healthcare for data journalism initiative IndiaSpend, as well as having worked for London based Tortoise Media.

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