By Michael Martina and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, June 16 (Reuters) – A duo of U.S. senators on Thursday introduced a bill to dramatically boost support for Taiwan, including provisions for billions of dollars in U.S. security aid and changes to the decades-old law that underpins Washington’s unofficial ties to the Chinese. claimed democratic island.
The United States, which accuses China of stepping up military coercion on Taiwan, is its main backer and arms supplier, a growing sticking point between Washington and Beijing, whose relations are already at a decades-old low.
The senators’ Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 threatens stiff sanctions against China for any aggression against Taiwan, and would provide $4.5 billion in foreign military funding over the next four years, and designate Taiwan as a “major non-military ally.” NATO”, according to the text.
The sponsors, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, a Democrat, and Republican Lindsey Graham, said it would be the most comprehensive overhaul of US policy toward Taiwan since the Taiwan Relations Act. of 1979 – the foundation of American engagement with the island from Washington. opened relations with China that year.
“As Beijing continues to seek to constrain and isolate Taiwan, there should be no doubt or ambiguity about the depth and strength of our resolve to support the people of Taiwan and their democracy,” Menendez said in a statement. communicated.
He said the bill sends a clear message that China should not make the same mistakes Russia made in invading Ukraine.
“The danger will only get worse if we show weakness in the face of Chinese threats and aggression towards Taiwan,” Graham said. Senate aides said the pair hoped the committee would vote to send the bill to the Senate as early as next week.
Washington and Beijing have remained firm on their opposing views on Taiwan’s right to govern itself.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the bill.
A U.S. official familiar with the bill said some of its elements made President Joe Biden’s administration and the State Department uncomfortable because they feared it would antagonize China.
Any legislation would also have to pass the House of Representatives, and another expansive bill intended to boost US competitiveness with China has languished in Congress for months.
The White House and State Department did not respond to a request for comment.
If made law as currently drafted, the bill would “prioritize and expedite” arms sales to Taiwan until Congress determines that the threat to the island is over. is significantly toned down, and would direct the Secretary of Defense to establish a training program to augment Taiwan and the United States. interoperability of armed forces.
The US president would be required to impose sanctions on Chinese officials, including its president, in response to “a significant escalation of actions hostile to or against Taiwan”, such as undermining or overthrowing the Taiwanese government or occupying the island.
It would amend parts of the Taiwan Relations Act, including adding that US weapons provisions in Taiwan would be “such as to deter acts of aggression” from China.
It would also push the State Department to seek negotiations to rename Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington to the Taiwan Representative Office, and elevate the role of Washington’s top official in Taiwan by requiring Senate confirmation for the post. .
Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe said last week that the Chinese military “would have no other choice but to fight at all costs and crush any attempt at Taiwan independence”. (Reporting by Michael Martina and Patricia Zengerle; editing by Grant McCool)