US Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Boost Taiwan Ties Amid China Tensions

By Reuters
March 27, 2019 Updated: March 27, 2019

WASHINGTON—Republican and Democratic U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation seeking to boost Washington’s relations with Taiwan and raise the island’s international profile on March 26, which could heighten tensions with China.

Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the influential Foreign Relations Committee, along with Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz, and Democratic Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Chris Coons offered the “Taiwan Assurance Act.”

Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, plans to introduce a companion measure in the House.

Among other things, the bill would mandate that President Donald Trump review State Department guidelines on relations with Taiwan, direct the Defense Department to make efforts to include Taiwan in military training exercises and expresses congressional support for regular U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

“This legislation would deepen bilateral security, economic, and cultural relations, while also sending a message that China’s aggressive cross-Strait behavior will not be tolerated,” Cotton said in a statement.

To become law, the measure would have to pass the Senate and House and be signed into law by Trump. Its passage would rankle Beijing as the United States and China are edging toward a possible deal to ease a months-long tariff dispute.

Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which also include the trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom of navigation patrols.

Washington has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help defend the island nation and is its main source of arms. The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taiwan more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.

China has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island, which it considers a wayward province of “one China” and sacred Chinese territory.

Beijing’s concerns about Taiwan are likely to factor strongly into this year’s Chinese defense budget, following a stern new year’s speech from Chinese leader Xi Jinping who did not renounce the use of force to bring Taiwan under Chinese rule.

China has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle the island on drills in the past few years and worked to isolate the island internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency released a report earlier this year describing Taiwan as the “primary driver” for China’s military modernization, which it said had made major advances in recent years.

Democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by autocratic China.

By Patricia Zengerle. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.