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U.S. defense bill with pro-Taiwan provisions approved by Senate

ROC Central News Agency

12/12/2020 12:16 PM

Washington, Dec. 11 (CNA) The United States Senate on Friday adopted provisions supporting continued arms sales to Taiwan and establishing an initiative to bolster the U.S. military's presence in the Asia Pacific region, as part of an annual defense policy bill.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2021, which was passed in an 84-13 vote in the Senate, authorizes US$741 billion in spending for defense programs at the Pentagon and other agencies.

Section 1260 of the bill expresses the sense of the Senate that the Taiwan Relations Act and the "Six Assurances" are both cornerstones of U.S. relations with Taiwan.

It requires the U.S. secretary of state to make an annual briefing to Congress on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan within 45 days of the bill's passage.

The section also requires the U.S. secretary of defense to brief Congress within 180 days of the bill's passage on the feasibility of establishing a medical security partnership with Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense.

Meanwhile, Section 9724 of the bill calls on the U.S. to ensure that Taiwanese nationals do not face discrimination when seeking employment at international financial institutions, such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.

In another portion of the bill, which does not directly refer to Taiwan but could have implications for the region, Congress allocates US$2.235 billion to the U.S. Department of Defense for the establishment of a "Pacific Deterrence Initiative."

According to the bill, the initiative will include activities to "enhance the United States deterrence and defense posture in the Indo-Pacific region, assure allies and partners, and increase probability and readiness in the Indo-Pacific region."

The NDAA will now be sent to the White House, where it faces uncertain prospects.

U.S. President Donald Trump said this week that he would veto the legislation, because it does not contain a repeal of legal protections for social media companies.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, have pointed out that the bill passed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives with margins exceeding the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto.

However, it is not clear whether those margins would stand if Trump were to follow through on his veto threat and it came to a vote in Congress a second time.

The Taiwan Relations Act was enacted in 1979 to maintain commercial, cultural and other unofficial relations between the U.S. and Taiwan after Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. The TRA also requires the U.S. "to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character."

The Six Assurances were given by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan to Taiwan in 1982 and include pledges not to set a date for ending arms sales to Taiwan, not to hold prior consultations with China regarding arms sales to Taiwan, and not to play a mediation role between Taiwan and China.

They also include assurances that the U.S. will not revise the Taiwan Relations Act or pressure Taiwan to enter into negotiations with China.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh and Matthew Mazzetta)


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