A Senate committee on Wednesday made the first step toward the United States providing billions of dollars in military aid to Taiwan and making ties more official, making the support more official after rising tensions with Beijing.
The United States has sold arms to Taiwan for decades, but the new law will go ahead by providing $4.5 billion in US security aid over four years, a move sure to anger Beijing. It also imposes sanctions on China if it uses force to try to seize the island.
With the support of both sides, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the Taiwan Policy Act, billed as the most comprehensive upgrade of relations since the United States. Beijing was recognized from Taipei in 1979.
Lawmakers moved forward on the act amid heightened concerns for Taiwan after Russia invaded Ukraine and a visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei, which allowed China to conduct major military exercises seen as a test run for an invasion. inspired to stage.
Senator Bob Menendez, a member of Biden’s Democratic Party who led the committee, said the United States “does not seek war or increased tensions with Beijing” but “clearly” needs to be.
“We are carefully and strategically mitigating the existential threats facing Taiwan by increasing the cost of taking the island by force so that it becomes too risky and unacceptable,” Menendez said.
“It is essential that we act now to strengthen Taiwan’s self-defense before it is too late,” said Senator Jim Rish, the committee’s top Republican.
The bill would still have to clear the full Senate and House. The White House has not said whether President Joe Biden will sign the bill, although its strong support could mean Congress could eliminate any potential veto.
– less ambiguous relationship –
The United States would still not recognize Taiwan under the act.
China regards the island – where the mainland’s defeated nationalists fled in 1949 – as a province awaiting reunification and strongly opposes any international legitimacy for Taipei, a vibrant democracy and major economic turned into power.
But the new law will remove many misconceptions and codewords, so as not to offend China by citing recognition.
The de facto embassy – now officially the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office – will be renamed the Taiwan Representative Office and the US government will be instructed to negotiate with Taiwan as it would with any government.
The top US envoy in Taipei, now called the director of the American Institute in Taiwan, will be renamed the “representative” of the office and require confirmation by the Senate, as will a US ambassador.
The act would also designate Taiwan a “major non-NATO ally”, a position for the closest US military partners outside the trans-Atlantic alliance. And in a reflection of the changing dynamics since the landmark 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the bill says the United States will provide weapons “conducive to deterring acts of aggression” by China, rather than only “defensive” weapons.
In addition to $4.5 billion in funding to Taiwan, the act would authorize a $2 billion loan guarantee for Taiwan to purchase American weapons.
Earlier this year, Biden appeared to put an end to decades of American ambiguity and said the US would directly help Taiwan if it were attacked.
His aides retracted his remarks and the White House later quietly discouraged Pelosi from proceeding with his visit, fearing it would provoke President Xi Jinping ahead of an important Communist Party meeting.
White House press secretary Carine Jean-Pierre said only that the Biden administration is in contact with lawmakers about the law.
“We appreciate the strong bipartisan support for Taiwan and look forward to working with Congress to strengthen it,” she said.