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U.S. House passes act backing closer military ties with Taiwan

2017/07/15 18:11:34

(CNA file photo)

Washington, July 14 (CNA) The U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018 in a full session Friday that includes clauses backing expanded military exchanges with Taiwan and amendments on the matter of Taiwan ports of call by the U.S. Navy.

The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which serves as the foundation for commercial, cultural and other relations between the United States and Taiwan, and the Six Assurances are again included in a section regarding Taiwan in the bill, which cleared the House in a vote 344-81.

The bill said it is "the sense of Congress" that the U.S., in accordance with the TRA, should make available and provide timely review of requests for defense articles and services that may be necessary for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.

At the same time, the U.S. should seek opportunities for expanded training and exercises with Taiwan, and encourage Taiwan's continued investments in asymmetric self-defense capabilities that are mobile and survivable against threatening forces, the bill said.

It was also the "sense of Congress" that "Taiwan should significantly increase its defense budget to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability."

A "sense of Congress" has no force in law.

Many amendments to the bill were also passed, including two on Taiwan.

One amendment requires the Secretary of Defense to report congressional committees by no later than Sept. 1, 2018 on "the feasibility and advisability" of U.S. Navy ships making ports of call in Taiwan and of Taiwanese ships making ports of call in Hawaii, Guam or other locations.

The other amendment pertains to normalizing the transfer of defense articles and defense services to Taiwan, again using a "sense of Congress" clause.

It asks that no later than 120 days after the Secretary of Defense receives a letter of request from Taiwan with respect to the transfer of a defense article or service to Taiwan, the secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on the issue.

In response, Taiwan on Saturday expressed its gratitude to the U.S. Congress for its interest in Taiwan's defense and the security ties between Taiwan and the U.S.

"We will continue to attach importance to investment in national defense and beef up our self-defense capabilities, and will stay in close contact with friends in the U.S. to ensure regional peace and stability," Presidential Office spokesman Sidney Lin (林鶴明) said.

The U.S. Senate will also have a vote on a draft NADD, which was recently passed in the Senate's Armed Services Committee.

If the version is different from that of the House, the two chambers will have to negotiate a final version, which will be signed by U.S. President Donald Trump and come into effect.

(By Rita Cheng and Elaine Hou)