Taiwan Policy Act unlikely to pass before U.S. Congress’ current term — Radio Free Asia

Taiwanese officials believe the Taiwan Policy Act, which was passed by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, is unlikely to clear the US 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 in the Senate committee and would see a boost in US military aid to Taiwan amid China’s increased aggression.

Taiwanese analysts said that if and when it becomes law, the bill will be “the biggest adjustment in US 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 that the proposed bill would not pass the current US Congress” as early as June, even before it was presented to the Senate.

The Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 must pass both the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as receive approval from President Joe Biden before the end of the 117th Congress on January 3, 2023, to become law.

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

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

According to the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the current basis of US Taiwan policy, The United States is committed to helping 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 Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen in April, said last week the primary focus of the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, which he co-sponsored, “has always been on deterrence and on improving Taiwan’s capabilities.”

It would require the defense and state ministries, as well as defense manufacturers, to “prioritize and expedite” foreign military sales to Taipei.

Taiwan has accumulated a backlog of US $14.2 billion in military equipment it bought from the US 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 in danger of not being passed in time, the Taiwanese government said a recently introduced bill in the US Congress could still help speed up arms transfers to Taipei.

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Rep. Steve Chabot during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, December 13, 2019. CREDIT: Reuters

Representatives Steve Chabot and Brad Sherman on Sept. 15 introduced the Accelerating Arms Transfers to Taiwan Act (HR 8842), which, if enacted, would make Taiwan eligible 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 expedite arms purchases 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 that the Taiwan Relations Act recognizes has profound implications for American interests in the Indo-Pacific,” Chabot said.

“The Ukraine model of arms 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 accelerate the transfer and delivery of these arms so that Taiwan is prepared , before it’s too late.”

Sends the ‘wrong signal’

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ou Jiangan on Thursday welcomed the introduction of the Act on Accelerating Arms Transfers to Taiwan, which she said showed the United States’ solid support for Taiwan’s security.

China has repeatedly objected to 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 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 border between Taiwan and mainland China.

Earlier this month, the US approved a $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 US military would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.

Beijing immediately made “stern representations” to Washington and warned the US not to send the “wrong signals” to those who want Taiwan’s independence.

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