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U.S. House passes bill bolstering support for Taiwan

2019/05/08 15:16:04

CNA file photo

Washington-Taipei, May 8 (CNA) The United States House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to support security in Taiwan and approved a non-binding resolution reaffirming the U.S. commitment to Taiwan.

The House passed the 2019 Taiwan Assurance Act, which calls for regular transfers of defense articles to Taiwan and opening dialogue toward a Taiwan-U.S. free trade agreement.

The bill recognizes that Taiwan is an important part of U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy and urges the government to assist Taiwan in terms of regular arms sales, and developing and integrating asymmetric warfare capabilities, including undersea warfare and air defense capabilities.

The bill also wants the U.S. Trade Representative to resume talks under the U.S.-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the goal of reaching a bilateral free trade agreement.

It is standing U.S. policy to advocate for Taiwan's meaningful participation in the United Nations, the World Health Assembly, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Criminal Police Organization and other international bodies that do not require statehood as a prerequisite for membership, the bill notes.

The bill also requires the U.S. secretary of state to conduct a review of the Department of State's guidance that governs relations with Taiwan, including the one titled "Guidelines on Relations with Taiwan" and related documents, and to issue such guidelines to executive branch departments and agencies no later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of the Act.

Representative Michael McCaul, who sponsored the bill, said that this bipartisan legislation seeks to deepen the U.S.' commitment to Taiwan by eliminating excessive diplomatic restrictions at the State Department, driven by communist China's bullying, and providing Congress access to these policies for the first time.

"It is improper to restrict relations with Taiwan to avoid offending the Chinese Communist Party.....Taiwan deserves a more elevated relationship with the United States, and I urge my colleagues to join me in rewarding Taiwan's commitment to democracy by supporting the Taiwan Assurance Act,”McCaul said.

Echoing McCaul, Representative Steve Chabot said the U.S. has no reason to restrict relations with Taiwan due to China's complaint.

The House also voted 414-0 for a non-binding resolution reaffirming U.S. support for Taiwan and adherence to the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).

The TRA, which provides the legal basis for unofficial relations between the U.S. and Taiwan, was signed into law on April 10, 1979 by then U.S. President Jimmy Carter, several months after the U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

The non-binding resolution titled "Reaffirming the United States commitment to Taiwan and to the implementation of the Taiwan Relations Act," states that the TRA and the Six Assurances continue to play an important part in maintaining peace, security and stability in the Western Pacific, which are in the political, security, and economic interests of the United States and Taiwan.

It affirms that the TRA and the Six Assurances are and will remain the cornerstones of U.S. relations with Taiwan.

The resolution calls for the U.S. government to back Taiwan's participation in international organizations, and encourages visits and interactions between high level officials of the U.S. and Taiwan, in accordance with the Taiwan Travel Act.

It also states the U.S. president should conduct regular transfers of defense articles to Taiwan consistent with Taiwan's national security requirements in accordance with prior legislation, including the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act of 2018.

In response, Taiwan on Tuesday expressed gratitude to the House for the unanimous passage of the bill.

The passage is of great significance at a time when the two countries are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the TRA, said Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang (張惇涵).

Taiwan is considered a reliable partner in maintaining the status quo of peace and stability in the region, he said, adding that from the perspective of international strategy, the importance of Taiwan is not limited to the Taiwan Strait but also the wider Pacific area.

(By Chiang Chinye, Yeh Su-ping and Evelyn Kao)