What you need to know
The U.S. Congress has approved a US$2.3 trillion spending package, which includes the Taiwan Assurance Act.
The U.S. Congress approved on Monday provisions to support Taiwan’s defense capacity and its participation in international organizations as part of a massive spending package for the 2021 fiscal year.
The package, worth US$2.3 trillion, includes the Taiwan Assurance Act, along with the long-awaited US$892 billion Covid-19 relief payments to households and businesses.
The spending bill awaits a signature from President Donald Trump, who has entered negotiations on the bill with a call to increase the stimulus payment from US$600 to $2,000.
The House of Representatives unanimously passed the Taiwan Assurance Act in May 2019, but it was only when it was added to the current spending bill that the Senate took it up for consideration.
The Trump administration has approved eight arms sales to Taiwan, including anti-ship cruise missiles and drones, since the passage of the bill in the House.
For the past few decades, the United States has maintained strategic ambiguity in its policy toward Taiwan, not declaring a formal security guarantee to defend the island nation in order to avoid provoking China.
The Taiwan Assurance Act of 2019 reinstates U.S. commitments to Taiwan “under the Taiwan Relations Act in a manner consistent with the ‘Six Assurances,’” but it is also “in accordance with the United States ‘One China policy.’”
The United States is gradually switching to the policy of strategic clarity, which suggests commitments to military intervention against Chinese invasion, said Lin Cheng-rung, a researcher at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, in an analysis.
But Lin said Taiwan must depend on itself for security and stressed the importance of general education on national defense. “We have to save our country on our own.”
“The United States will put its national interests at the forefront of its policy-making,” Lin noted, quoting Winston Churchill: “We have no lasting friends, no lasting enemies, only lasting interests.”
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, Taiwan’s de-facto embassy in the United States, said it appreciates the bipartisan support for strengthening bilateral relations.
Recognizing Taiwan as “a vital part of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy,” the United States should “conduct regular sales and transfers of defense articles to Taiwan in order to enhance its self-defense capabilities,” the Taiwan Assurance Act read, which include “undersea warfare and air defense capabilities.”
It also said it is U.S. policy to advocate for Taiwan’s “meaningful participation” in international bodies, such as the United Nations, the World Health Assembly, and the International Civil Aviation Organization, while support the country to join the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNESCO and “other international organizations for which statehood is not a requirement for membership.”
Within 180 days after the bill is enacted, Congress will require the Secretary of State to review the State Department’s guidance that governs relations with Taiwan, including the periodic memorandum titled “Guidelines on Relations with Taiwan.”
The State Department will brief on the results of the review and the implementation of the Taiwan Travel Act, which allows high-level officials of the United States to visit Taiwan and vice versa.
The US$2.3 trillion package also includes $3 million for the Global Cooperation and Training Framework.
Taiwan and the United States jointly launched the GCTF in 2015 to take Taiwan’s expertise in a variety of fields, from public health to law enforcement, to the global stage, especially in helping other countries train their human resources. Japan joined the initiative as a full partner in 2019.
TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)
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