By Michael Martina and Patricia Gingerli
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A duo of U.S. senators on Thursday introduced a bill to significantly bolster support for Taiwan, including provisions for billions of dollars in U.S. security assistance and changes to a decades-old law that bolsters Washington’s informal ties with the democratic island that claims China. . .
The United States, which accuses China of ramping up military coercion against Taiwan, is its main backer and arms supplier, and is a point of growing friction between Washington and Beijing, whose relations are already at their lowest point in decades.
The Senators’ Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 threatens to impose severe sanctions on China for any aggression against Taiwan, and will provide $4.5 billion in foreign military funding over the next four years, in addition to designating Taiwan a “key non-NATO ally,” according to the text.
Shepherds, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, a Democrat, and Republican Lindsey Graham, said the most comprehensive restructuring of US policy toward Taiwan since the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 – a cornerstone of US engagement with the island since Washington. Opening of relations with China that year.
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“As Beijing continues to seek to coerce and isolate Taiwan, there should be no doubt or ambiguity about the depth and strength of our determination to stand with the people and democracy of Taiwan,” Menendez said in a statement.
He said the bill sends a clear message that China should not make the same mistakes that Russia made in invading Ukraine.
“The danger will only get worse if we show weakness in the face of Chinese threats and aggression toward Taiwan,” Graham said. Senate aides said the couple hope the committee will vote to send the bill to the Senate floor early next week.
Washington and Beijing have stood firmly on their opposing views on Taiwan’s right to self-govern.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the proposed legislation.
One US official familiar with the bill said some of its elements have made the Biden administration and State Department uncomfortable over concerns it could antagonize China.
Any legislation would have to pass the House of Representatives, and another expanded bill aimed at boosting the United States’ competitiveness with China has been languishing in Congress for months.
The White House and State Department did not respond to a request for comment.
If the law becomes as currently written, the bill would “prioritize and expedite” arms sales to Taiwan until Congress determines that the threat to the island has been significantly reduced, as well as directing the Secretary of Defense to create a training program to increase Taiwan and US armed forces interoperability .
The US president will be asked to impose sanctions on Chinese officials, including its own, in response to a “significant escalation of hostilities in or against Taiwan,” such as undermining or overthrowing Taiwan’s government or occupying the island.
It will amend parts of the Taiwan Relations Act, including adding that US arms provisions for Taiwan “help deter aggressive actions” by China.
It would also push the State Department to seek negotiations to rename Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington to the Taiwan Representative Office, and elevate the role of Washington’s top official in Taiwan by asking for Senate confirmation of the position.
Beijing has never given up the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fengyi said last week that the Chinese military “will have no choice but to fight at all costs and crush any attempt at Taiwan independence.”
(Reporting by Michael Martina and Patricia Zingerley; Editing by Grant McCall)
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