Taiwan Policy Act clears U.S. Senate committee

09/15/2022 11:54 AM
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Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Washington, Sept. 14 (CNA) The Taiwan Policy Act (TPA) -- described by its sponsors as "the most comprehensive restructuring of U.S. policy towards Taiwan since the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979" -- cleared the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday in a 17-5 bipartisan vote.

Some of the bill's original proposals -- including renaming Taiwan's de facto U.S. embassy, requiring senate approval for Washington's envoy to Taipei, and designating the island a "major non-NATO ally" -- were either removed or made nonbinding in the wake of misgivings from the White House.

Despite this, the updated bill still includes provisions authorizing up to US$6.5 billion in grants from 2023 to 2027 for Taipei to purchase U.S. arms.

Following Wednesday's committee decision, the Taiwan Policy Act still needs to pass votes in the Senate and the House of Representatives as well as receive approval from U.S. President Joe Biden before the conclusion of the 117th Congress on Jan. 3, 2023, to become law.

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez -- chair of the foreign relations committee and the Taiwan Policy Act's initiator -- told reporters that the bill dealt with "the aggression that China has shown in a way that it's never shown before in the 43 or so years from the Taiwan Relations Act."

Following a meeting between White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and congressional leaders, the committee decided to clip some of the bill's more radical proposals.

According to Bloomberg, Washington was trying to balance supporting Taiwan with keeping growing bipartisan hawkishness on Capitol Hill against China in check.

Asked about the modifications, Menendez said the changes were "minor" compared to provisions on defense assistance, which the senator described as "the core of the bill" alongside clauses relating to international forums and economic engagement.

Although stopping short of designating Taiwan as a "major non-NATO ally" -- which would have afforded it the same status as Australia, Israel, Japan, and South Korea with regards to expediting arms sales -- the revised bill states that the country "shall be treated as though it were designated a major non-NATO ally for the purposes of the transfer or possible transfer of defense."

Menendez and co-initiator Senator Lindsay Graham of the Republican Party have described the Taiwan Policy Act as the most comprehensive restructuring of U.S. policy toward Taiwan since TRA.

The Taiwan Relations Act -- which establishes a commitment to providing Taiwan with the means to defend itself -- has served as the cornerstone of U.S.-Taiwan engagement since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.

Progress on the Taiwan Policy Act comes after a visit to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in early August.

Following the trip, the Chinese People's Liberation Army encircled Taiwan and conducted live-fire drills.

The military exercises and ramped up aggression by Beijing in the Taiwan Strait have been viewed as a punitive response to Washington's perceived straying from its "one-China" policy.

On Wednesday, China's Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian (朱鳳蓮) said Beijing resolutely opposed the Taiwan Policy Act, which "seriously violates" the basic principles of international relations, the one-China principle, and the three Joint Communiques between the U.S. and China.

Meanwhile, Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), Taiwan's representative to Washington, thanked U.S. lawmakers for their support.

Hsiao added that the Taiwan Policy Act's contents and modifications showed some senators believed it was more important to focus on Taiwan's security issue for the time being.

(By Stacy Hsu and Joseph Yeh)

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