Back to list

U.S. senators propose bill to help Pacific allies counter China

2016/04/29 19:14:07

Washington, April 28 (CNA) Four American senators, including three members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), have proposed a maritime security act to increase support to Asia-Pacific allies to cope with Beijing's assertive moves in the South China Sea.

Called the "Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Initiative Act of 2016," the legislation would try to enhance the maritime capabilities of a country or regional organization to respond to emerging threats to maritime security in the Asia-Pacific region.

Among the actions it authorizes are to prioritize Asia-Pacific allies for the transfer of excess defense articles and provide help in increasing maritime security and domain awareness in the area.

Taiwan would be covered under the provisions in the bill.

The U.S. "president shall ensure that the United States Government treats every proposed arms sales for Taiwan with the same timelines, processes, and procedures, including formal notification to Congress under the Arms Export Control Act, accorded to proposed arms transfers for all other countries," the legislation says.

The rationale given for the proposed legislation is China's "provocative actions in the South China Sea."

These actions "threaten not just regional stability but long-standing U.S. interests in the free-flow of commerce, freedom of navigation, and the peaceful resolution of disputes consistent with international law," said Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland and one of the bill's sponsors.

"China's ongoing actions to unilaterally redraw the region's maritime borders exacerbates the risks of misperceptions and conflict," said Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii.

"Our bipartisan legislation helps align our diplomatic and military efforts so that we can continue to work with our partners and allies across the Pacific to strengthen our commitment to regional peace and stability."

The bill would also authorize funding and education training activities in the Asia-Pacific for maritime security and capacity buildings and upgrade the Philippines' military procurement status to the same level of the U.S.'s closest allies.

It would also require the administration to annually "review and report to the appropriate congressional committees on the compliance" of relevant clauses for five years after the enactment of the act.

The other two sponsors of the bill are Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, and Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey. Cardin, Gardner and Menendez are all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In railing against the militarization of "new and reclaimed land features in the South China Sea" -- a clear reference to China -- the senators were aligned with the government's foreign policy.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that the U.S. Navy will regularly sail by China-built artificial islands in the South China Sea, according to an AP report.

Republican senators on the committee said such freedom of navigation operations that cruise within 12 nautical miles of the manmade islands should become routine.

Blinken agreed with Senator Marco Rubio's comment that China's objective was to control the entire South China Sea and argued that Beijing was alienating its neighbors and risking conflict and instability unless it changed its approach, the report said.

(By Tony Liao and Kuo Chung-han)