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US Senate passes defense bill with US$10 billion in military aid for Taiwan

Bill also authorizes US$2 billion in loans for arms, US$100 million in munitions

Tanks open fire during Han Kuang 22 Military Exercise in Yilan County in 2006. 

Tanks open fire during Han Kuang 22 Military Exercise in Yilan County in 2006.  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. Senate on Thursday (Dec. 15) followed the U.S. House of Representatives in passing a bill allocating the coming year's defense budget, which will include US$10 billion (NT$305.7 billion) in military aid for Taiwan to bolster its defenses against an invasion by China.

The Senate passed the US$857.9 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the fiscal year 2023 with a vote of 83 in favor and 11 opposed. The House of Representatives passed the bill on Dec. 8 with a vote of 350 to 80.

In the finalized version of the 2023 NDAA, the U.S. State Department is authorized to provide Taiwan with up to US$2 billion in "Foreign Military Finance grant assistance" each year from 2023 to 2027. This is for the purchase of weaponry and military equipment. In addition, the bill authorizes US$2 billion in loans to enable Taiwan to purchase arms from the U.S.

The bill also authorizes the U.S. president to build a "regional contingency stockpile" for Taiwan that includes up to US$100 million worth of munitions. It also affords Taiwan the same treatment as major non-NATO allies on the southern and southeastern flanks in receiving the priority to obtain "excess defense materials" from the U.S.

The bill requires the State Department and the Department of Defense to prioritize and expedite the processing of Taiwan's arms purchase requests, and to "not delay the processing of requests for bundling purposes."

The bill also said that holding joint military exercises with Taiwan is an important element to improve combat readiness. It called for Taiwan's Navy to be invited to participate in the 2024 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises.

The bill said that since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was elected in 2016, the Chinese government has launched coordinated campaigns against Taiwan in an attempt to weaken the country "diplomatically, economically, and militarily." To ensure the interests of the U.S. and maintain the ability of the Taiwanese people to determine their own future, the bill's authors wrote that "it is necessary to reinforce Taiwan's diplomatic, economic, and territorial space."

The document also said the U.S. decision to establish diplomatic relations with China was based on the expectation that Taiwan's future is resolved through peaceful means. Therefore, any attempts to dictate Taiwan's future through anything other than peaceful means, "including boycotts and embargoes, is a grave concern to the United States."

In terms of cultural exchanges, the bill requires the Secretary of State to establish the "Taiwan Fellowship Act" to provide qualified American citizens, including federal government officials, an opportunity to go to Taiwan for a two-year exchange. Once there, they will study Mandarin; the people, history, and political climate of Taiwan; and issues affecting the relationship between the U.S. and the Indo-Pacific region in the first year. In the second year, they will serve in the Legislative Yuan, government departments, or private sectors.

The next step is for the bill to be sent to the White House, where President Joe Biden is expected to sign it into law.