Washington, Oct. 31 (CNA) The content of the U.S. Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2020 that touches on Taiwan affairs has not been kept in a curtailed version of the bill, which it is hoped will pass legislation by the end of the year.
Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced the "skinny" NDAA for fiscal 2020 "to ensure that critical defense programs are authorized," according to a statement released by Inhofe Tuesday.
The move was made amid intense negotiations and voting on government budget bills for the new fiscal year in Congress before it enters recess in mid-December.
Almost every part of the NDAA related to military cooperation and exchanges with foreign countries, including Taiwan, have been deleted in the 67-page streamlined version, except for parts relating to the militarily and politically tense Middle East.
According to sources familiar with the matter, although Inhofe proposed a streamlined version, negotiations between the House and Senate on the NDAA were not halted.
Inhofe's edition may just be a backup, a source said, noting that Congress needs more time to discuss several other issues, including an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
Also, it is believed that Inhofe wants to use the streamlined bill to press Congress to pass the NDAA as soon as possible, the source said.
"I'm introducing this simple, politics-free version of the annual defense authorization bill today to guarantee that we are able to fulfill our responsibilities to our service members and maintain critical national security programs -- a goal all conferees share," Inhofe said in the statement.
"Given our deadline, I want to preserve all options for fulfilling our Constitutional duty," he said. "I believe we can still reach a final, bipartisan agreement on a comprehensive defense authorization bill, just as we have for the last 58 years."
The Senate passed its version of the NDAA for fiscal 2020 on June 27, before the House did so on July 12. Since then, talks have been conducted in Congress to produce a final version of the bill that would be accepted by both the Senate and the House.
So far, however, no agreement has been reached.
Both the Senate and House versions include a section supporting continued U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
According to a version of the bill released June 19, Congress expresses its sense in Section 1248 on Taiwan that Washington should "continue to support the acquisition by Taiwan of appropriate defensive weapons ... with a particular emphasis on asymmetric warfare, information sharing, air defense and maritime capabilities."
The U.S. government is urged to improve the "predictability of arms sales" to Taiwan by ensuring timely review and response to its requests for defense articles and services, the bill states.
The bill also calls on the U.S. Secretary of Defense to promote policies concerning cooperation and exchanges that enhance the security of Taiwan, including exchanges between U.S. and Taiwanese senior defense officials and general officers, in accordance with the Taiwan Travel Act.