U.S. House rep introduces Taiwan defense bill amid military tensions

07/03/2020 06:02 PM
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The Capital Hill. / CNA file photo
The Capital Hill. / CNA file photo

Washington, July 2 (CNA) United States Representative Mike Gallagher introduced the House version of the Taiwan Defense Act (TDA) on Wednesday amid Beijing's increased military activities around Taiwan, according to a press release issued by the congressman's office.

The bill would ensure that the U.S. is able to continue meeting its obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) in the face of the Chinese Communist Party's aggressive military build-up, the press release said.

The TRA, enacted by Congress in 1979 after the U.S. established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC), is aimed at ensuring the continuation of substantial de facto diplomatic and economic relations between the U.S. and Taiwan. It also includes a pledge to provide sufficient defense weapons and services to Taiwan to enable it to defend itself.

While the Act does not guarantee Washington will come to Taiwan's defense if the PRC attacks Taiwan, it also does not say the U.S. gives up the choice to intervene militarily.

"Yesterday, we saw the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) end one country, two systems. No longer can anyone harbor the illusion that the CCP would unify peacefully with Taiwan," Gallagher was quoted in the press statement as saying.

He was referring to China's passage of a national security law for the former British colony Hong Kong on Tuesday which immediately went into effect. Some sectors feared it could be used to persecute pro-democracy protesters, activists and dissidents, and lead to an erosion of the territory's promised autonomy and freedoms.

China's leaders have also proposed using the one country two systems formula to peacefully reunify with Taiwan, a proposal the Taiwanese government and people have rejected.

"It's long past time to end strategic ambiguity and draw a clear red line through the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan's liberty is a vital national security interest of the United States, and the Taiwan Defense Act helps ensure our military has the capabilities it needs to block CCP aggression," Gallagher said.

The TDA is aimed at maintaining the U.S. military's capabilities to defeat an attempt by China to execute a "fait accompli" against Taiwan, according to its authors.

The draft bill states that "fait accompli" refers to Beijing's strategy to forcibly seize control of Taiwan before the U.S. is able to respond effectively, while convincing the U.S. that mounting such a response would be prohibitively difficult or costly.

The draft legislation also requires the U.S. secretary of defense to submit a report on the progress of the Department of Defense with respect to denying a "fait accompli" by China against Taiwan. The report is supposed to be submitted no later than April 30 each year, beginning in 2021 and ending in 2026.

The House version of TDA was introduced on the same day when China launched a five-day naval exercise near the contested Paracel Islands in the South China Sea to test its ability to seize islands.

Aside from the closely watched naval exercise, Chinese military aircraft and ships have also been detected more frequently near Taiwan's airspace and waters since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in 2016.

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, who introduced an identical legislation in the Senate on June 10, warned in the same press release that the CCP will dominate the region if it is allowed to seize control of Taiwan.

"This would pose an unacceptable threat to the lives and livelihoods not just of our Asian allies and partners, but of working Americans here at home," he added. "We must not allow that to happen."

China's leaders have repeatedly said it prefers peaceful reunification with Taiwan, but has also firmly indicated it will not give up the use of force to reunify with Taiwan and prevent its formal independence.

Beijing has stepped up military maneuvers near Taiwan amid rising tensions between the two sides in recent years.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh and Emerson Lim)

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