taiwan has expressed his “heartfelt gratitude” to the US Congress after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a bill that would boost military aid to the Democratic island amid increased China’s aggression.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday that with the recently passed “Taiwan Policy Act of 2022”, the US has shown its commitment to “completely improve relations between Taiwan and the US”.
The ministry also said it hoped that “legislation will be pushed forward and deepened” during upcoming congressional sessions.
Taiwanese political analyst Wong Ming-hsien, a professor at Tamkang University in Taipei, told RFA Mandarin Service that, from a legal perspective, if and when it becomes law, the bill will be “the largest adjustment in U.S. policy toward Taiwan in the past forty years.”
“It will provide a clear framework for the interaction between the US, China and Taiwan, which is more important than the original Taiwan Relations Act in 1979 and the so-called Six Assurances as the legal basis for allowing the US executive to manage relations between the US-Taiwan without being constrained by US-China relations,” Wong said.
The Six Assurances are six core principles of U.S. foreign policy regarding U.S.-Taiwan relations, which were passed by Congress in 2016 as “formal but not directly enforceable.”
Written by Senators Bob Menendez and Lindsey Graham, the “Taiwan Policy Act of 2022” aims to “strengthen United States policy toward Taiwan to maintain a stable deterrent across the Straits of China while China maintains its campaign to undermine the status quo,” said one press release of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Menendez, who led a Senate delegation to visit Taiwan and meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in April, said in the release that “the primary focus of this bill has always been on deterrence and enhancing Taiwan’s capabilities. “
Huge increase in military funding
It would provide US$6.5 billion in military aid to Taiwan through 2027, an increase of US$2 billion from the US$4.5 billion through 2026 proposed in the original bill.
There were also some changes to the original proposal, such as the provision that would designate Taiwan as a “major non-NATO ally” for the purpose of expediting arms sales.
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 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
The amended version instead states that “Taiwan will be treated as if it were designated as a major non-NATO ally for the purpose of the transfer or possible transfer of defense.”
Essentially, the “Taiwan Policy Act of 2022” would require the defense and state ministries, as well as defense manufacturers, to “prioritise and accelerate” foreign military sales for Taipei, despite the latter not being a major non-NATO ally.
Analysts say this new language allows Taiwan to receive the same benefits as the US’s main non-NATO allies without a formal recognition of Taiwan’s sovereignty, a gesture that would seriously provoke China.
Another provision about renaming Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington, currently the “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office”, to the more official “Taiwan Representative Office”, was also dropped.
Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on the bill, the White House expressed concern about some of the elements that could be considered “radical.”
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in an interview with Bloomberg last week that the bill contains elements that are “quite effective and robust; that will improve Taiwan’s security’, but also ‘other elements of some concern’.
Sullivan said he would meet with congressional leaders to discuss the text.
China has yet to respond to the bill’s approval, but its representatives have spoken out against the Taiwan Policy Act.
“The Chinese side has repeatedly expressed its strong opposition to the ‘Taiwan Policy Act of 2022’,” said Spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mao Ning on Wednesday.
“The US side must abide by the One-China principle and the provisions of the three joint China-US communiqués and stop promoting the relevant Taiwan-related law,” she told reporters in Beijing.
China has insisted that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China and reacted angrily to US support for Taipei.
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in March, Beijing announced a major military exercise in return.
The “Taiwan Policy Act of 2022” has yet to pass the Senate and House of Representatives and receive approval from US President Joe Biden before the 117th Congress closes on January 3, 2023 to become law.
Jill Lee from Taipei contributed to this article.