Historic Battle Shaping Up in Congress Over Relations With Taiwan

The Senate is weighing a Taiwan Policy Act that makes President Biden nervous.

AP/Patrick Semansky, file
The U.S. Capitol building, June 9, 2022. In an Election Day that didn’t have a lot of immediate bright spots for Republicans, the New York congressional race victories are being celebrated. AP/Patrick Semansky, file

No matter what the Senate decides on the Taiwan Policy Act the Foreign Relations Committee is marking up this afternoon, it’s the beginning of a potentially historic battle over Taiwan’s future and American credibility in the Pacific. 

If passed, the measure would boost military aid to Taiwan, or the Republic of China as it’s more formally called, and elevate diplomatic relations, such as they are, between Taiwan and America, while punishing Communist China for any aggression toward the island. 

The bipartisan bill is sponsored by the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, and Senator Graham, Republican of South Carolina. Senator Rubio has predicted that the measure would pass, albeit by a close vote.

One source of drama, though, is that the measure is opposed by the White House, which is, to use the word used by Bloomberg News, “nervous.” It worries that the measure will anger the Chinese Communist Party leaders at Beijing. 

Yet it’s not only the fear of angering Communist China that makes the White House wary of the measure the Senate is considering. It’s also a sense that it would restrict the foreign policy prerogatives that are normally vested in the presidency. Here, even some conservatives might see some merit in President Biden’s concerns.

Yet some might see that crowding of the president as a positive feature of the bill, in that it would force Mr. Biden to take more proactive action to defend Taiwan and enhance diplomatic relations more than the White House has thus far indicated it would like to do. It would also force the executive branch to report to Congress on its progress.  

The bill would: Reaffirm the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances; elevate diplomatic ties between the U.S. and China; prohibit restrictions on federal government official interactions with counterparts in the government of Taiwan; remove previous guidance that inhibits Taiwanese officials from displaying symbols of Taiwanese sovereignty, including the flag of the Republic of China. Establish de facto diplomatic treatment for Taiwan equivalent to other foreign governments. 

It would also provide Military Assistance to Taiwan; direct the secretary of defense to review and report war plans to defend Taiwan from People’s Liberation Army aggression; direct the secretaries of state and defense to develop a joint assessment of threats and solutions, an acquisition plan, and prioritization of the defense needs of Taiwan to maintain effective deterrence against PRC aggression.

In addition, it would authorize $4.5 billion in military assistance to Taiwan over four years; direct the secretary of defense to establish a comprehensive training program with Taiwan that improves Taiwan’s defense capabilities and increases armed forces interoperability; and direct the secretary of defense to establish a high-level military planning mechanism with Taiwan to oversee a Joint and Combined Exercise Program.

The measure would require relevant federal agencies to brief Congress on all available economic, diplomatic, and other strategic measures to deter the use of force by the People’s Republic of China to change the status quo of Taiwan and progress on all coordination efforts between the United States and its allies; and direct the secretary of state to coordinate with allies and partners to identify and develop such measures. 

In addition to increasing annual war reserves stockpile additions to $500 million from $200 million to support Taiwan’s defense, the bill would also designate Taiwan as a major non-NATO ally and provide Taiwan preferences for foreign assistance and arms exports. It would direct the secretary of state to develop and implement strategic guidance and capacity building measures for Taiwan’s private and public sector to respond to disinformation, cyberattacks, and propaganda by the People’s Republic of China.

Other provisions in the bill direct the secretary of state to submit a strategy for responding to the People’s Republic of China’s increased economic coercion against countries who increase their ties or support for Taiwan; promote Taiwan’s inclusion in international organizations; direct the Permanent Representative of the U.S. to the United Nations and other relevant representatives to promote Taiwan’s inclusion in international organizations; support Taiwan’s participation in the Inter-American Development Bank; establish the Taiwan Fellowship Program to provide federal government employees with fellowship opportunities in Taiwan; authorize the U.S.-Taiwan Cultural Exchange Foundation to deepen ties between the future leaders of Taiwan and America; and establish policy to invite Taiwanese officials to participate in high-level bilateral and multilateral summits, military exercises, and economic dialogues and forums.

The bill would prohibit: (1) federal government officials from recognizing PRC claims to sovereignty over Taiwan; and (2) restrictions on federal agencies from interacting with Taiwanese counterparts. It would affirm U.S. policy to oppose any attempt by the PRC to unilaterally impose a timetable for unification on Taiwan, and establish a sanctions regime to punish Chinese aggression toward Taiwan.

Under the bill, if the president determines China is escalating hostile actions against Taiwan, the president shall impose sanctions on: Chinese Communist Party officials; at least three major PRC financial institutions; foreign persons involved in the PRC’s natural resource extraction industries, including oil, gas, coal, and minerals; and any foreign persons that the president determines have interfered in a democratic process in Taiwan, or acted to destabilize Taiwan. The sanctions include blocking property and visa denial and revocation — prohibiting sanctioned individuals from entering the United States.

The New York Sun

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