Taiwan Policy Act is unlikely to be passed in the current term of the US Congress

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Taiwanese officials believe the Taiwan Policy Act, passed by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, is unlikely to release the US Congress before the end of its current term, the official Central News Agency (TBEN) reported.

The bill, drafted by Senators Bob Menendez and Lindsey Graham, gained strong bipartisan support in the Senate Committee and would boost US military aid to Taiwan amid increased China’s aggression.

Taiwanese analysts said that, if and when passed into law, the bill would be “the biggest change in US policy toward Taiwan in the past 40 years.”

The government-led TBEN quoted an unnamed senior Taiwanese official who was aware of the matter and said authorities there “had known as early as June that the proposed bill would not pass the current US Congress” even before it was submitted to the Senate.

The Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 must be passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and must be passed by President Joe Biden before the conclusion of the 117th Congress on January 3, 2023 to become law.

The senior official was quoted by TBEN as saying the process is “very difficult”.

Washington maintains a so-called “strategic ambiguity” towards the democratic island that China considers one of its provinces.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the current foundation of U.S. Taiwan policy, the US 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 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 Defense and State Ministries, as well as defense manufacturers, to “priority and expedite” foreign military sales to Taipei.

Taiwan has accumulated a backlog of US$14.2 billion worth of military equipment it purchased from the US in 2019 but has yet to receive due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

With the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 at risk of not being passed in time, the Taiwanese government said a new bill submitted to the US Congress could still help accelerate arms transfers to Taipei.

Rep. Steve Chabot at a House Judiciary Committee meeting on Capitol Hill, Dec. 13, 2019. CREDIT: Reuters

Representatives Steve Chabot and Brad Sherman introduced the Accelerating Arms Transfers to Taiwan Act (HR 8842) on Sept. 15 that, if passed, would qualify Taiwan for priority delivery of surplus defense items, 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 arms purchases for Taiwan and authorize the stockpiling of war reserves on Taiwan.

“Taiwan faces an existential threat from the People’s Republic of China, a threat that under the Taiwan Relations Act has profound implications for US interests in the Indo-Pacific,” Chabot said.

“Ukraine’s post-invasion arms transfer model is simply not viable for an island’s defense,” the congressman said, adding that the Accelerating Arms Transfers to Taiwan Act “would help accelerate the transfer and delivery of those weapons so that Taiwan is prepared before it is too late.”

Sending the ‘wrong signal’

Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Ou Jiangan on Thursday welcomed the adoption of the Accelerating Arms Transfers to Taiwan Act, which she says demonstrates the US’s solid support for Taiwan’s security.

China has repeatedly protested against all Taiwan-related US legislation, which: it calls “US interference in China’s internal affairs”.

Beijing announced a week-long military exercise around Taiwan after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taipei for an official visit in August.

Chinese planes and warships routinely began crossing the centerline of the Taiwan Strait, which has served as the de facto border between Taiwan and mainland China.

Earlier this month, the US approved a US$1.17 billion weapons package, including anti-ship and air-to-air missiles for Taiwan and over the weekend. President Joe Biden said in an interview that the US military would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.

Beijing immediately filed “severe statements” with Washington, warning the US not to send “wrong signals” to those seeking independence from Taiwan.