Taiwan: US lawmakers make visit as Beijing conducts 'combat readiness patrol' close to island
A delegation of United States lawmakers arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday sparking immediate condemnation from China, with Beijing describing the trip as an "act of provocation."The unspecified group landed in Taipei on a Boeing C-40A military plane shortly after 6 p.m. local time, according to flight details by Flightaware. The plane subsequently took off for Okinawa after a brief stay at the airport.
The U.S. Congress has seen the introduction of a remarkable 60 bills that relate to Taiwan this year, as Democrats and Republicans cross the aisle to support the island's continued survival amid increasing pressure from China.
American politics are often described as some of the most divisive among Western democracies, with lawmakers almost always voting along party lines. But beyond the domestic strife in both chambers, Taiwan appears to be a rare issue on which Congress can coalesce for bipartisan action.
Defense planners in Taipei and Washington have watched as the Taiwan Strait military balance has slowly slipped away since the turn of the century. Taiwanese legislators, on the advice of American strategists, are seeking budget authorization for weapons that could make Beijing think twice before launching any invasion to capture the democratic island.
'We are a country': Taiwanese embrace distinct identity
Ken Young and Kylie Wang, hosts of a popular daily news podcast, say they feel Taiwanese and not Chinese -- a belief shared by many young people on the self-ruled island. Beijing views Taiwan as part of China and has intensified pressure on Taipei in recent years, pushing political tensions between the two to dizzying heights. For younger Taiwanese people, the growing antagonism has cemented a distinct identity rooted in democracy -- and not China's authoritarianism."For me, identifying myself as a Taiwanese means all the things that I am proud of," 38-year-old Young told AFP.
Pending in the Senate and House of Representatives of the 117th Congress are more than five dozen bills with the potential to boost Taiwan's chances of maintaining deterrence across the Taiwan Strait and prolonging the status quo that has held for over seven decades. Many revolve around the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), the central piece of legislation guiding U.S.-Taiwan relations since 1979, also aiding Taiwan's development of a credible self-defense capability over the years.
Taipei stands to gain from the National Defense Authorization Act and the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, both of which have passed the House. The NDAA seeks closer cultural and military ties between American and Taiwanese troops, and includes a move to invite the Taiwanese navy to next year's RIMPAC maritime exercise.
In the Senate, the bipartisan United States Innovation and Competition Act, passed in June, includes provisions for a stronger deterrent against China's potential use of force against the island. Much of the focus has been on China's rapidly expanding hard power and the steps Taiwan should take to counter specific capabilities given its limited budget—a concept known as asymmetric defense.
This month alone has seen the introduction of the Republican-led Arm Taiwan Act and Taiwan Deterrence Act. Both seek government funding—$3 billion and $2 billion, respectively—that would accelerate the development of Taipei's asymmetric warfare capabilities over the next decade, a period in which leaders in the U.S. and Taiwan assess China will possess the means to achieve its "historic mission" of annexing the island.
While security is among the priorities that consistently top the agenda of bilateral talks between the Indo-Pacific partners, there has also been noticeable legislative support for the expansion of Taiwan's diplomatic and economic footprint with the U.S., its allies and in international institutions such as the World Health Organization—so far to no avail.
China Says Joe Biden's Taiwan Policy Based on 'Cooked Up' Domestic Law
China's Foreign Ministry responded Wednesday after President Biden said Taiwan was "independent," and that the U.S. would not change its "one China" policy.Quizzed about the leaders' summit with China's Xi Jinping, Biden told reporters in New Hampshire on Tuesday that he made it very clear the U.S. supports the "Taiwan Act"—an apparent reference to the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).
Lawmakers have sought to elevate the status of Taiwanese officials working on American soil, where they serve in more informal capacities as cultural or trade representatives. Bills like the GOP's ROC Act and the bipartisan Taiwan Diplomatic Review Act seek respective approval to display Taiwanese national symbols and upgrade Taiwan's offices in the U.S.
The Republican TIGER Act would see the establishment of an inter-parliamentary group comprising members of Congress and Taiwan's legislature, while the Taiwan Peace and Stability Act calls for Taiwan's meaningful participation in the United Nations system.
On public health, the United States-Taiwan Public Health Protection Act—in both the Senate and House—would lead to the creation of a center to monitor infectious disease outbreaks. Other laws introduced in both houses of Congress include the bipartisan Taiwan Partnership Act and Taiwan Fellowship Act as well as the GOP-led Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act.
Taiwan's Foreign Ministry has responded with repeated thanks this year and described its backing in Congress as bipartisan. Analysts on the island have called it the "Taiwan consensus."
Taiwan opens Lithuania office as China condemns ‘egregious’ move
New office a further sign countries in eastern Europe willing to deepen cooperation with Taiwan despite China’s threats.Taipei announced on Thursday it had formally opened the office in the Baltic state – its first in Europe in 18 years – in defiance of a pressure campaign from Beijing.
Although many bills don't make it past committee and ultimately never become American law, the introduction itself of pro-Taiwan legislation demonstrates the temperature of Congress, which also has the Taiwan Voice Act, Taiwan PLUS Act, Taiwan Defense Act, Taiwan Relations Reinforcement Act, Taiwan International Solidarity Act, Taiwan ASSURE Act and others on file.
While no American law or treaty exists today that would compel the U.S. to assist Taiwan militarily during a cross-strait conflict, the TRA requires that the president and Congress decide on appropriate action in response to any threat to Taiwan and its people—a discussion that would center on the intent of both the executive and the legislative branches.
During a CNN town hall last month, Biden answered "yes" when asked whether the U.S. would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack. He voted for the TRA in 1979 and, along with Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, is one of only two officials from the Senate of the 96th Congress still holding public office 42 years later.
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China's crackdown on Hong Kong may have pushed Taiwan further away than ever .
Beijing's crackdown on Hong Kong has played an important role in how Taiwanese view China, with opinion polls suggesting more people now support the self-ruled island becoming formally independent from the mainland.But his story could have been very different if he lived in Hong Kong, where student activists once brought the financial hub to a standstill as they took to the streets to demand democracy and freedoms.