U.S. House committee votes to boost Taiwan’s military capability

Image taken from the House Armed Service Committee's Twitter account via CNA

Washington, May 10 (CNA) The Armed Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a draft bill that would help strengthen Taiwan’s military capability.

The committee voted 60-1 after a full day of debate on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes provisions to direct the executive branch to study ways of increasing military cooperation and exchanges with Taiwan.

Under Section 1243, headed “Strengthening Taiwan’s Force Readiness,” the draft bill also seeks to expand joint military training between Taiwan and the U.S. and to support U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

“This section would direct the secretary of defense to conduct a comprehensive assessment, in consultation with appropriate counterparts of Taiwan, on ways to enhance and reform Taiwan’s military forces, particularly Taiwan’s reserve forces,” the section reads.

“The assessment would also require the development of recommendations to strengthen bilateral cooperation and improve Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities,” it states.

Following consultations with the secretary of state, the secretary of defense would be required to submit a report on the assessment and a list of recommendations and planned actions to the appropriate committees in the U.S. Congress in less than a year after the enactment of the bill.

The bill will next be sent to the full House for review and may be subject to changes.

Commenting on the House Armed Services Committee’s vote, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Friday that the relevant section of the bill will serve to stabilize regional security by expanding military exchanges between the U.S. and Taiwan.

Military spokesman Chen Chung-chi (陳中吉) said that the MND is delighted to see measures that will boost Taiwan’s self-defense.

He also expressed gratitude to the U.S. Congressmen who are seeking to maintain stable bilateral ties based on the Taiwan Relation Act and the Six Assurances, which are the cornerstones of U.S.-Taiwan relations in the absence of formal relations.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said the language of the bill is supportive of Taiwan.

It includes support for military exchanges based on the Taiwan Travel Act, which was passed in March with the goal of promoting meetings and visits between high-ranking American and Taiwanese government officials, amid strong opposition from Beijing, MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) noted.

On behalf of MOFA, Lee also thanked the U.S. Congress for its continued efforts to help expand military cooperation between the U.S. and Taiwan.

He said MOFA will maintain contact with appropriate agencies in the U.S. government, as part of its ongoing efforts to forge closer bilateral cooperation on security.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh, Elaine Hou and Frances Huang)