US defense bill to strengthen Taiwan's defenses against China passes House

US defense bill calling for strengthening Taiwan's military capabilities to counter China has passed in the House 351 to 66

Tank fires during drill in Penghu.

Tank fires during drill in Penghu. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The U.S. House of Representatives today (May 25) passed legislation for the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the fiscal year of 2019 which includes provisions to improve Taiwan's defense capabilities to counter China's increasing military muscle.

This year's NDAA includes a section that calls for ways to strengthen Taiwan's defense capabilities, increase joint training, allow for weapons sales, and enable senior-level military exchanges, in order to counter China. The US$717 billion bill passed in the House by a vote of 351 to 66.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 includes a section added by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) specifically directed at strengthening Taiwan's defenses. Titled "Section 1253—Strengthening Taiwan's Force Readiness," is greatly expanded from the Armed Services Committee version and reads:

"(a) Defense assessment

The Secretary of Defense shall, in consultation with appropriate counterparts of Taiwan, conduct a comprehensive assessment of Taiwan’s military forces, particularly Taiwan’s reserves. The assessment shall provide recommendations to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, readiness, and resilience of Taiwan’s self-defense capability in the following areas:

(1) Personnel management and force development, particularly reserve forces.

(2) Recruitment, training, and military programs.

(3) Command, control, communications and intelligence.

(4) Technology research and development.

(5) Defense article procurement and logistics.

(6) Strategic planning and resource management.

(b) Report required

(1) In general

Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report containing each of the following:

(A) A summary of the assessment conducted pursuant to subsection (a).

(B) A list of any recommendations resulting from such assessment.

(C) A plan for the United States, including by using appropriate security cooperation authorities, to—

(i) facilitate any relevant recommendations from such list;

(ii) expand senior military-to-military engagement and joint training by the United States Armed Forces with the military of Taiwan; and

(iii) support United States foreign military sales and other equipment transfers to Taiwan, particularly for developing asymmetric warfare capabilities."

Also, in a summary of the bill it states that "the Chinese Communist Party, is working to undermine the world order which has existed since the end of World War II," and that "China is using an 'all-of-nation long-term strategy' and 'leveraging military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce neighboring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific region to their advantage.'" Thornberry then lists eight suggestions on countering China's aggressive strategy which includes strengthening Taiwan's defenses:

"Supports improving Taiwan’s defense capabilities, expands joint training, foreign military sales, the use of security cooperation authorities, and senior-level military-to-military engagement initiatives with Taiwan."