To counter China, US senators promote stronger ties with Taiwan, Asian allies

The 'Asia Reassurance Initiative Act' designates 'enhanced diplomatic and defense contacts between Washington and Taipei' as a key security interest

U.S. Capitol Hill (Image by Pixabay user forbesfortune)

U.S. Capitol Hill (Image by Pixabay user forbesfortune)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Four U.S. Senators publicly introduced a new framework for U.S. policy in Asia this week, which calls for increasing diplomatic and military engagement in the Indo-Pacific, and to further support democratic allies facing China’s increasingly threatening activity in the region.

The “Asia Reassurance Initiative Act” (ARIA), unveiled on Monday, April 23 proposes "regular arms sales to Taiwan” as well as expanded operations of the U.S. Navy in the region, likely to include regular port calls to Taiwan’s coastal cities.

The Act is the creation of Senator Cory Gardner(R-CO), who has been working on the legislation since 2017. It is co-sponsored by Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Ben Cardin(D-MD).

The Diplomat has called the proposed legislation a “Republican vision for engaging Southeast Asia,” however the campaign has since become a bipartisan effort with the support of Markey and Cardin. Gardner was originally prompted to draft the legislation to address what he called the Obama administration’s “flawed Asia rebalance policy.”

There are three key areas of the proposed campaign; to strengthen U.S. commitments to allies and security in the region; to ensure U.S. market access to the region’s economy; and to promote democracy, human rights, and the freedom of information.

In a press release, Marco Rubio described ARIA as a bill that “will serve as a policy framework to enhance U.S. leadership in Asia and to demonstrate a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and the rules-based international order.”

Edward Markey emphasized the need to peacefully denuclearize North Korea and was quoted as saying that the bill is aimed at “promoting the freedom of navigation and over flight in maritime Asia, and defending human rights and the respect for democratic values.”

In addition to expressing "support for regular arms sales to Taiwan," the summary document of the new framework for foreign policy in Asia marks enhanced "diplomatic and defense contacts between Washington and Taipei" as a key "Security Interest."

The announcement of ARIA comes only a week after China carried out a series of live-fire military drills in the Taiwan Strait, which Beijing itself described as a signal intended to threaten any Taiwanese who support a declaration of de jure independence for the country.

Taiwan’s armed forces likewise carried out naval exercises earlier the same week intended to simulate repelling a hostile naval force, and the Ministry of National Defense this week on April 24 also announced further exercises of a similar nature in the weeks ahead.

To achieve the aims proposed for ARIA, the bill requests a budget of US$1.5 billion over a five year period, to shore up defensive alliances, and to better secure key shipping lanes in the South China Sea in accordance with the Trump administration’s commitment to ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific region.