US Senate committee introduces bill to strengthen US relations with Taiwan

Taiwan flags fly during a welcome party for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves (not pictured) outside the presidential palace in Taipei, Taiwan, August 8, 2022. REUTERS/Ann Wang

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 (Reuters) – A U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would significantly boost U.S. military support for Taiwan, including appropriations of billions of dollars in additional security aid, while increasing Chinese military pressure on the democratically governed island. .

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee backed the 2022 Taiwan Policy Act by 5-17, despite concerns about the bill in US President Joe Biden’s administration and anger over the measure from Beijing.

The strong bipartisan vote was a clear indication of both Republicans and their fellow Democrats in Biden’s support for changes in US policy toward Taiwan, such as its treatment as a major non-NATO ally.

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The sponsors said the bill would be the most comprehensive restructuring of US policy toward the island since the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 – a cornerstone of US engagement with what China considers one of its provinces since Washington opened ties with Beijing that year.

“We need to be clear what we’re up against,” said Senator Bob Menendez, the Democratic chair of the committee, stressing that the United States is not seeking war or escalating tensions with Beijing.

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

The bill allocates $4.5 billion in security assistance to Taiwan over four years, and supports its participation in international organizations.

The law also includes extensive language about sanctions against China in the event of hostilities across the strait that separates it from the mainland.

Beijing opposition

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

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

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

She said she had expressed her “gratitude” to Congress for the legislation. “Given the complexity of different perspectives here in the United States as well, we hope we can come to a consensus on security, which is our highest priority,” she said.

The committee’s approval cleared the way for a vote in the full Senate, but there was no word on when that would happen. For it to become law, it must also pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Biden or gain enough support to override a veto.

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

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

(This story corrects paragraph 4 about describing Taiwan)

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(Reporting by Patricia Gingerly and Michael Martina) Editing by Jonathan Otis and Richard Chang

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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