U.S. House passes defense policy bill with Taiwan provisions
Washington, Sept. 23 (CNA) The United States House of Representatives passed its annual defense policy bill on Thursday, which includes recommendations for inviting Taiwan to the 2022 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) and enhancing cooperation between the U.S. National Guard and Taiwan.
The House approved its US$777.9 billion fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a 316-113 vote Thursday night.
The 1,390-page bill includes three major provisions related to Taiwan under sections 1243, 1247, and 1248, according to the text of the bill released by the House Rules Committee.
Under section 1248, the bill recommends that the naval forces of Taiwan should be invited to participate in RIMPAC in 2022. Taiwan has never been invited to participate in the exercise before.
RIMPAC, hosted every two years by the U.S. Pacific Fleet near Hawaii, is the world's largest international maritime military exercise.
RIMPAC began in 1971 as an annual exercise to foster relationships between the U.S. and its allies, and safeguard their safety in trade and sea lines of communication in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
Section 1243 of the bill calls for a report on the feasibility and advisability of enhanced cooperation between Taiwan and the U.S. National Guard by no later than Feb. 15, 2022.
The provision requires an evaluation of the feasibility of enhancing cooperation on a range of activities, including disaster and emergency response, cyber defense and communications security, military medicine, cultural and educational exchanges, and training of the reserve components of the military forces of Taiwan.
Section 1247 is pertinent to helping Taiwan to strengthen its self-defense capability. It reiterates the importance of the Taiwan Relations Act and the "six assurances" as the foundation of ties between Taipei and Washington.
The provision also calls for practical training and military exercises with Taiwan; exchanges between defense officials and officers of the United States and Taiwan at the strategic, policy, and functional levels especially for the purposes of enhancing cooperation on defense planning; improving the interoperability of the military forces of the U.S. and Taiwan; and improving the reserve force of Taiwan.
Additional sections request reports on military and security developments involving the People's Republic of China, the expansion of Chinese influence in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the inclusion of information on Beijing's attempts to poach Taiwan's diplomatic allies in the region.
The U.S. Senate's version of the bill was approved by its Armed Services Committee on July 23 and is expected to be considered by the full Senate in October.
With both the House and Senate having introduced their respective versions of the bill, presuming the Senate passes its version, a House-Senate conference will reconcile differences before both chambers vote on sending the final bill to President Joe Biden before it becomes legislation.
Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense said Friday that it will make a prudential assessment of participating in RIMPAC based on its defense operations needs and will proactively seek to join exercises that are conducive to regional peace.
Meanwhile, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Friday thanked the U.S. Congress for having continued promoting military cooperation and exchanges between Taiwan and the U.S. in its annual defense policy bill over the past few years.
This highlights the importance the Congress attaches to Taiwan's national defense and its support for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said.
MOFA will keep a close watch on the review processes of the bill in the near future and maintain close contact with related U.S. government agencies to deepen security cooperation between the two countries, she added.
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