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Senate panel advances Taiwan policy overhaul

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) addresses reporters during a press conference on Wednesday, November 3, 2021 to discuss state and local tax caps.
Greg Nash

The Senate Foreign Relations committee on Wednesday advanced bipartisan legislation aimed at strengthening U.S. policy toward Taiwan.

The panel advanced the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 by a vote of 17-5, coming amid rising U.S. tensions with China over Taiwan’s independence and despite unspecified concerns about the legislation from the White House.

Following the vote, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) told reporters that the bill “makes it very clear of our support for Taiwan in many different dimensions and defense and the international realm and economic engagement.”

“It is incredibly supportive of Taiwan at a time that Taiwan needs that support to be clear as it deals with the aggression that China has shown in a way that it’s never shown before in the 43 or so years of the Taiwan Relations Act,” he continued.

Four Democrats and one Republican voted against the bill: Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D- Mass.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rand Paul (R- Ky).

The bill would set aside $4.5 billion in security assistance to Taiwan over four years as well as designate Taiwan a major non-NATO ally, which would benefit the island in terms of defense, trade and security cooperation.

The measure would also support Taiwan’s participation in international organizations and multilateral trade architecture.  

The bill signals rising frustration from Congress over Washington’s current policy on Taipei.

The Biden administration has indicated that it had some concerns about the bill but has largely been silent on what those concerns were. White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that the administration was working with members of Congress on the bill.

China views Taiwan as part of its own territory and sees the bill as an affront to the One China principle — the long-standing policy under which the U.S. acknowledges China’s position that there is “only one” Chinese government but still maintains ties with Taiwan.

Menendez said the panel adopted changes to the bill that largely affect its “symbolic” areas but not the “substantive” ones.

Among the changes, the bill will now express that Congress wants the administration to negotiate changing the name of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office to the Taiwan Representative Office. The original version of the legislation directs the secretary of State to renegotiate the name.  

The panel also removed a provision of the bill that would require Senate confirmation for the director of the American Institute in Taiwan.

“Those are minor compared to the provisions on the defense assistance, which is the core of the bill, and the provisions on the international forum and economic engagement,” Menendez said. “So, from my perspective, not much change from the core of the bill.”

Updated: 5:38 p.m.

Tags Bob Menendez Bob Menendez John Kirby Robert Menendez US-China relations US-Taiwan relations
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