This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Taiwanese officials believe it is unlikely that the Taiwan Policy Act, which was passed by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, will clear the U.S. Congress before the end of the current term, the official Central News Agency (CNA) reported.
The bill, authored by Senators Bob Menendez and Lindsey Graham, received strong bipartisan support at the Senate committee and would see a boost in U.S. military aid to Taiwan amid China’s increased aggression.
Taiwanese analysts said, if and when it becomes law, the bill would be “the biggest adjustment in U.S. policy toward Taiwan in the past forty years.”
The government-run CNA quoted an unnamed senior Taiwanese official with knowledge of the issue as saying that authorities there “had known the proposed bill would not clear the current U.S. Congress” as early as June, even before it was introduced to the Senate.
The Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 needs to pass both the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as to receive approval from President Joe Biden before the conclusion of the 117th Congress on Jan. 3, 2023, to become law.
The senior official was quoted by CNA as saying that the process is “highly difficult.”
Washington maintains a so-called “strategic ambiguity” towards the democratic island that China considers one of its provinces.
According to the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the current bedrock of America’s Taiwan policy, the U.S. is obligated to help the island with the means to defend itself.
Accelerated Arms Transfer to Taiwan Act
Senator Bob Menendez, who led a Senate delegation to visit Taiwan and meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in April, said last week the primary focus of the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 co-sponsored by him “has always been on deterrence and on enhancing Taiwan’s capabilities.”
It would require the departments of Defense and State, as well as defense manufacturers to “prioritize and expedite” foreign military sales to Taipei.
Taiwan has accumulated a backlog of U.S. $14.2 billion in military equipment that it bought from the U.S. in 2019 but has yet to receive due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
Now with the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 at risk of not being passed in time, the Taiwanese government said a newly introduced bill at the U.S. Congress could still help speed up arms transfer to Taipei.
Representatives Steve Chabot and Brad Sherman on Sept. 15 introduced the Accelerating Arms Transfers to Taiwan Act (H.R. 8842) which, if passed, would make Taiwan eligible for priority delivery of excess defense articles, according to a press release from Chabot’s office.
The bill would also require the Secretary of Defense to use the Special Defense Acquisition Fund to accelerate weapons procurement for Taiwan and authorize the creation of a war reserve stockpile on Taiwan.
“Taiwan faces an existential threat from the People’s Republic of China, a threat which the Taiwan Relations Act recognizes has profound implications for American interests in the Indo-Pacific,” said Chabot.
“The Ukraine model of weapons deliveries after an invasion starts is just not viable for the defense of an island,” the congressman said, adding that the Accelerating Arms Transfers to Taiwan Act would “help speed the transfer and delivery of those weapons, so that Taiwan is prepared before it is too late.”
Sending the ‘wrong signal’
The Taiwanese Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Ou Jiangan on Thursday welcomed the introduction of the Accelerating Arms Transfers to Taiwan Act which she said showed the U.S.’s solid support for Taiwan’s security.
China has repeatedly protested against all Taiwan-related U.S. legislations, which it calls “U.S. interference in China’s internal affairs.”
Beijing announced a week-long military drill around Taiwan after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taipei on an official visit in August.
Chinese aircraft and warships began routinely crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait which has served as the de facto boundary between Taiwan and China’s mainland.
Earlier this month, the U.S. approved a U.S.$1.17 billion arms package including anti-ship and air-to-air missiles for Taiwan and over the weekend President Joe Biden said during an interview that the American military would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.
Beijing immediately lodged “stern representations” with Washington, warning the U.S. not to send the “wrong signals” to those wanting Taiwan independence.