U.S. president signs bill encouraging regular arms sales to Taiwan

In this Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016 photo, Taiwanese soldiers launch an anti-tank weapon APILAS during the annual Han Kuang exercises in Pingtung county, southern Taiwan. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying, File)

WASHINGTON (CNA) — President Donald Trump has signed into law legislation aimed at enhancing the United States’ influence in the Indo-Pacific region and reaffirming Washington’s commitment to Taiwan, particularly arms sales.

Trump signed into law the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act and 12 other bills on Dec. 30, the White House announced, though the U.S. president seemed eager to make clear he will not be constrained by the bill’s demands that the U.S. be more engaged in the region.

“Several provisions of the Act … purport to dictate the policy of the United States in external military and foreign affairs, or to require the executive branch to undertake certain diplomatic initiatives with international partners,” Trump said in a statement.

“My Administration will treat these provisions consistent with the President’s exclusive constitutional authorities as Commander in Chief and as the sole representative of the United States in foreign affairs,” he declared. The bill was introduced in April by senators Cory Gardner, Ed Markey, Marco Rubio, and Ben Cardin.

It serves as a policy framework to enhance U.S. leadership in the Indo-Pacific region and to demonstrate a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and the rules-based international order, according to Gardner.

In Section 209, the bill states that it is the policy of the U.S. to support the close economic, political and security relationship with Taiwan. It is U.S. policy “to faithfully enforce” all existing U.S.

government commitments to Taiwan, consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, the three U.S.-China joint communiques, and the Six Assurances agreed to by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, the bill says.

It further reiterates U.S. policy as countering efforts to change the status quo and supporting “peaceful resolution acceptable to both sides of the Taiwan Strait.” On arms sales to Taiwan, the act says the U.S. president should conduct regular transfers of defense articles to Taiwan that are tailored to meet the existing and likely future threats from the People’s Republic of China.

That should include “supporting the efforts of Taiwan to develop and integrate asymmetric capabilities, as appropriate, including mobile and cost-effective capabilities, into its military forces,” the bill says.

It also urges the president to encourage the travel of high-level U.S. officials to Taiwan, in accordance with the Taiwan Travel Act.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the bipartisan support of the U.S. Congress for Taiwan after the Senate and House passed the bill earlier in the month, while Beijing blasted the legislation as violating the “one China” principle.

By Rita Cheng and Elizabeth Hsu