This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
A week after the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a bill on U.S. policy toward Taiwan, the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee introduced its own version.
Analysts say it will take time to consolidate the two versions of the Taiwan Policy Act 2022 amid concerns that it would not clear the U.S. Congress before the end of the current term in Jan. 2023.
The House’s version of the Taiwan Policy Act was introduced on Wednesday by the Foreign Affairs Committee Lead Republican and Chairman of its China Task Force, Michael McCaul, in order to “strengthen Taiwan’s defense and deter the aggression of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP].”
“Taiwan is a critical national security partner for the United States whose democracy is under an unprecedented level of threat from the CCP,” said McCaul.
“Now is the time to arm our ally, before an invasion occurs not after… Deterrence is key to stopping the CCP from provoking a conflict that would seriously harm U.S. national security,” the Texan congressman said.
The draft bill proposed “a comprehensive set of tools to increase Taiwan’s military capabilities to deter and defeat a CCP attack” including authorizing up to U.S. $6.5 billion in Foreign Military Financing over 5 fiscal years, contingent on Taiwan increasing non-personnel defense spending, according to the Committee’s summary.
It would also establish joint training, planning, and exercises as well as authorize a munitions stockpile, FMF (foreign military financing) loans, and drawdown authority for Taiwan. Similar to the Senate’s version, the House Committee’s version asks for expediting military sales to Taiwan.
Yet amongst measures to modernize the U.S. Taiwan policy, the House proposed version “requires administration to refer to Taiwan as a ‘government’; reauthorizes Taiwan Assurance Act to reduce unnecessary restrictions; ensures Taiwan is able to display its national flag for government business; renames TECRO (the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States) the ‘Taiwan Representative Office’; and elevates top U.S. diplomat in Taiwan with Senate confirmation.”
Similar provisions in the Senate’s Taiwan Policy Act 2022 were removed after the White House expressed concerns about some of the elements that may be deemed as “radical.”
“It is natural that the House’s version of Taiwan Policy Act is a more uncompromising reflection of U.S. support for and sentiment towards Taiwan,” said Wen-Ti Sung, a political scientist from the Taiwan Studies Program at the Australian National University.
“The U.S. House of Representatives historically represents popular values while the U.S. Senate represents pragmatism and moderation,” Sung said.
“This makes the U.S. Senate version look moderate in comparison, thereby making it easier for Beijing to accept the Senate version, if that’s the version that eventually passes through both chambers,” the analyst told RFA.
China has repeatedly protested against all Taiwan-related U.S. legislations, including the Taiwan Policy Act, which it calls “U.S. interference in China’s internal affairs”, and requires that the U.S. stop advancing them.
The challenge now would be how to consolidate the two versions.
“The significant gap between Senate and House versions may necessitate a lengthy reconciliation process to harmonize their proposals, and all these have to be done by no later than January 2023 when the next Congress swears in, or it will all go to waste,” Sung said.
Accelerating arms transfer to Taiwan
Last week Taiwanese official media quoted an unnamed senior official with knowledge of the matter who said that the government thinks “it is unlikely that the Taiwan Policy Act will clear the U.S. Congress before the end of the current term.”
The official quoted by the Central News Agency (CNA) revealed that Taipei “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.
It was eventually passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Sept. 14.
However, despite uncertainties around the passing of the Taiwan Policy Act, a newly introduced bill at the U.S. Congress could still help speed up arms transfer to Taipei.
Congressmen 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.
It would, if approved, 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 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.