Congress approves 2019 NDAA bill heralding closer Taiwan-US defense ties

The NDAA provisions call for increased military exchanges and improved lines of communication between Taipei and the Pentagon for national security related matters

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US Capitol (Image from pixabay user 12019)

US Capitol (Image from pixabay user 12019)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The two legislative houses of the United States government have reportedly resolved their issues regarding the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2019, which includes provisions for supporting Taiwan’s defense and for enhancing bilateral cooperation between the militaries of the U.S. and Taiwan.

The legislation will next be forwarded to the White House where President Trump is likely to sign the bill into law in the coming weeks. A consultation report on the changes made during negotiations has been created, but is still unavailable to the public at the time of publication.  

For Taiwan, the provisions in the NDAA for the 2019 fiscal year will streamline the process for making weapons purchases from the U.S., while also providing increased exchanges between senior officers and greater opportunity for participation in joint military exercises.

The provisions approved by the Senate earlier this year emphasized that the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances made under the Reagan administration in 1982 are the foundation of U.S.-Taiwan relations, and that the U.S. is obligated to respond promptly and effectively to Taiwan’s defensive needs.

The provisions call for increased military exchanges and improved lines of communication between Taipei and the Pentagon for national security related matters.

The NDAA also calls for Taiwan’s increased participation in international humanitarian and disaster relief operations, suggesting that the U.S. should consider sending military vessels to Taiwan as part of the annual “Pacific Partnership” humanitarian missions of the U.S. Navy.

The 2019 NDAA also instructs the Department of Defense to develop a comprehensive strategy to stabilize the Indo-Pacific region (Sec. 1251) and shore up alliances with partner nations, including Taiwan. The legislation calls for a five year plan and suggests that India could be upgraded to the status of a major defense partner as part of the strategic initiative.

The following is the full text of the section of the Senate's draft bill on Taiwan, most of which has likely been retained in the final NDAA bill:

SEC. 1243. SENSE OF SENATE ON TAIWAN.

It is the sense of the Senate that—

(1) the Taiwan Relations Act (22 U.S.C. 3301 et seq.) and the “Six Assurances” are both cornerstones of United States relations with Taiwan;

(2) the United States should strengthen defense and security cooperation with Taiwan to support the development of capable, ready, and modern defense forces necessary for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability;

(3) the United States should strongly support the acquisition by Taiwan of defensive weapons through foreign military sales, direct commercial sales, and industrial cooperation, with a particular emphasis on asymmetric warfare and undersea warfare capabilities, consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act;

(4) the United States should improve the predictability of arms sales to Taiwan by ensuring timely review of and response to requests of Taiwan for defense articles and defense services;

(5) the Secretary of Defense should promote Department of Defense policies concerning exchanges that enhance the security of Taiwan, including—

   (A) United States participation in appropriate Taiwan exercises, such as the annual Han Kuang exercise;
   (B) Taiwan participation in appropriate United States exercises; and
   (C) exchanges between senior defense officials and general officers of the United States and Taiwan consistent with the Taiwan Travel Act (Public Law 115–135);

(6) the United States and Taiwan should expand cooperation in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; and

(7) the Secretary of Defense should consider supporting the visit of a United States hospital ship to Taiwan as part of the annual “Pacific Partnership” mission in order to improve disaster response planning and preparedness as well as to strengthen cooperation between the United States and Taiwan.