U.S. Senate passes pro-Taiwan defense bill calling for more patrols in Taiwan Strait

U.S. Senate passes massive US$750 billion pro-Taiwan defense bill calling for more transits through Taiwan Strait

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USS Stethem. (Photo from navy.mil)

USS Stethem. (Photo from navy.mil)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) --- The U.S. Senate has passed a mammoth US$750 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2020 which calls for improving Taiwan's defense capabilities and includes a new section calling for continued "regular transits" through the Taiwan Strait by U.S. Navy warships and those of its allies.

The NDAA, which sailed through the Senate 86-8 on Thursday (June 27), provides for a whopping US$750 billion in total spending. In an unusual move, the Senate will vote on an amendment on Friday that would prevent Trump from using military funding to launch a military attack on Iran without congressional approval, reported The Hill.

As has been the pattern in recent years, a section on Taiwan has been included that calls for bolstering its defenses and this year calls for the continued patrols of Navy vessels through the Taiwan Strait. The bill reiterated the "Six Assurances" and called for further strengthening of defense and security cooperation with Taiwan.

The bill then outlined several specific areas in which the U.S. can aid Taiwan in boosting its asymmetric defenses against China, including the following:

"Anti-ship, coastal defense, anti-armor, air defense, undersea warfare, advanced command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR), and resilient command and control capabilities."

The legislation sought to increase the regularity and reliability of U.S. defense sales to Taiwan in calling for "continue efforts to improve the predictability of United States arms sales to Taiwan by ensuring timely review of and response to requests of Taiwan for defense articles and services." The bill then calls for more exchanges with Taiwan that would fortify its defenses, including training and military exercises, exchanges between senior defense officials and general officers, and exchanges between junior officers and enlisted personnel.

The proposed law called for expanded cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief between the two countries. The bill also suggested sending a U.S. hospital ship as part of the annual "Pacific Partnership" mission and welcoming the participation of Taiwan medical vessels in exercises with the U.S.

A new section not seen in last year's bill, calls for continued "regular transits" of U.S. Navy warships through the strait and commends the French navy for its rare passage through the contentious body of water in April. The section then encourages other U.S. allies to engage in such patrols in order to ensure freedom of navigation through the strait.

"The Secretary of Defense should continue regular transits of United States Navy vessels through the Taiwan Strait, commend the armed forces of France for their April 6, 2019, legal transit of the Taiwan Strait, and encourage allies and partners to follow suit in conducting such transits, in order to demonstrate the commitment of the United States and its allies and partners to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows."

The bill will next need to be reconciled with a House version, before being sent to President Trump for his signature.