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NDAA promises to enhance U.S.-Taiwan defense ties

By Wen-Yee Lee  09/19/2017

The U.S. Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018 on Monday. The Act includes strengthening Taiwan’s defense and normalizing the transfer of defense services to the island nation. It also requires a report on naval ports of call exchanges between the United States and Taiwan, but this action has threatened the People's Republic of China (PRC).

The report seeks to assess the possibility of establishing port calls by the U.S. Navy in Taiwanese ports and calls by the Republic of China (ROC) navy, also known as Taiwan’s navy, in locations such as Guam and Hawaii. If such port calls were to occur, it would be the first time since the U.S. terminated its diplomatic relations with the ROC in 1979.

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz is in the Pacific Ocean on a scheduled deployment to the western Pacific and Indian Oceans. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Holly L. Herline/DVIDS)

Taiwan has been one of America’s most significant arms purchasers, and the United States recently approved its first arms sales to Taiwan under the Trump administration. According to a report released on Sep. 14 by the Global Taiwan Institute, a think tank focused on U.S.-Taiwan relations based in Washington D.C., a practical way to boost bilateral military cooperation would be for the U.S. government to enhance military exchanges with Taiwan.


Earlier in June, after the Senate Armed Services Committee approved military exchanges as part of the NDAA, different voices have come out in Taiwan and China:


Chih-cheng Lo, a Taiwanese legislator from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), urged the Taiwanese government to take advantage of this opportunity to propose concrete cooperation details for U.S.-Taiwan bilateral military relations.


Another Taiwanese DPP Legislator Ting-yu Wang, who serves on the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, also wrote in a Facebook post in July that the Act would enhance Taiwan’s defense and national security, strengthening U.S.-Taiwan military ties.


The editorial board of United Daily News, one of the biggest conservative newspapers in Taiwan, stated the decision on the military exchange is “more of a hindrance than a help.” It pointed out that the exchange would worsen cross-Strait relations with Beijing.


The editorial board of Global Times, a Chinese newspaper with close ties to the central government, stated if U.S. Navy ships went back to Taiwanese ports, it would be regarded as America’s most dangerous action in support of “Taiwan’s independence” over the past decades, adding that Beijing could put everything on the table to prevent it.


Opposition lawmaker Chi-chen Chiang of the Kuomintang party in Taiwan wrote in a Facebook post that both Beijing and Washington are struggling to expand their influence over Taiwan. However, Chiang believes that the island nation needs to secure its own interest.


Even though the NDAA sailed smoothly through the Senate and the House, it now awaits President Trump’s signature.


Taiwan currently maintains unofficial relations with the United States.  The United States terminated diplomatic relations with Taiwan, then known as the ROC, after it recognized the PRC as the only China in 1979.


To continue informal relations between people in the U.S. and Taiwan, the U.S. Congress enacted the Taiwan Relations Act. The Act also allows U.S. arms sales to support Taiwan’s self-defense, including from a PRC potential invasion.



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