DPP lawmaker lobbies for Taiwan to join Pacific military exercises

Based on Taiwan Travel Act, US should invite Taiwan to RIMPAC exercises says Wang Ting-yu

USS Carl Vinson departs San Diego ahead of 2018 RIMPAC exercises (Photo from US INDOPACOM)

USS Carl Vinson departs San Diego ahead of 2018 RIMPAC exercises (Photo from US INDOPACOM)

Wang Ting-yu (王定宇), convener of the Legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, said Saturday that the Unites States should invite Taiwan to participate in the upcoming multi-national military exercises in the Pacific, based on U.S. laws that have already been enacted.

Speaking to reporters in Washington D.C., Legislator Wang of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said that under those exiting laws, visits to the U.S. by senior Taiwanese officials should also increase.

Wang said that on his current trip he has met with members of Congress who sit on the armed forces, foreign affairs and intelligence committees in both the House and the Senate.

During those meetings, Wang said, he conveyed Taiwan's wish to participate in the U.S.-led multinational Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military exercises, which are scheduled for next summer.

In response, the U.S. congressmen and their aides said they thought such an invitation was possible and would help to enhance mutual understanding and knowledge of defense-related exchanges, according to Wang.

He said he also made reference to the pro-Taiwan bills that were passed in the U.S. over the past two years, as a basis for such exchanges and for enhanced bilateral relations.

Wang was referring to the Taiwan Travel Act, which was signed into law by U.S. President Donald Trump in March 2018, allowing high-level American officials to visit Taiwan and vice versa; and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019, which Trump signed in August of that year.

The NDAA calls for U.S. assistance in boosting Taiwan's military and includes a section on inviting Taiwan to join the U.S.-led military exercises.

"It will be unfair not to invite Taiwan to participate in the RIMPAC," Wang said.

Dubbed as the world's largest international maritime exercise, the RIMPAC began in 1971 and had been held annually until 1974, when it became a biennial exercise. The founding nations are the U.S., Australia and Canada.

DPP lawmaker Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) said last year that the U.S. had always wanted to invite Taiwan to participate in the RIMPAC but had been unable to do so because of China's objections and threats to pull out of the exercise if Taiwan was invited.

China's People's Liberation Army participated in the RIMPAC in 2014 and 2016 but was not invited in 2018 in light of Beijing's rapid military buildup on disputed islands in the South China Sea, according to the U.S. military.

Last year, 25 nations, 46 surface ships, five submarines, 17 land forces, and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in the month-long RIMPAC in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California, according to the RIMPAC website.