The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would give Taiwan $4.5 billion in new assistance over the next four years and designate the island as a non-NATO ally.
The 17-5 vote in committee sets up the bill for possible consideration on the Senate floor, but no vote had been announced as of Wednesday, and it’s unclear whether the Biden administration would support it.
National security officials within the administration have labeled China as America’s “pacing threat” and have begun the work of designing America’s military capabilities around the possibility of a confrontation with China. Approving new funding and support to Taiwan could escalate tensions with China even further, as China continues to claim Taiwan as part of the mainland and has stepped up pressure on the U.S. to ignore what China calls an internal matter.
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Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., rejected the idea that the U.S. cannot aid Taiwan more directly. He said his bill would make clear America’s commitment to Taiwan, which would create a disincentive for China to threaten a military or economic takeover.
“The bill we are approving today makes clear the United States does not seek war or increased tensions with Beijing,” Menendez said. “Just the opposite. We are carefully and strategically lowering the existential threats facing Taiwan by raising the cost of taking the island by force so that it becomes too high a risk and unachievable.”
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“As Beijing continues to take coercive diplomatic, political, military and economic measures against Taiwan, today’s strong, bipartisan vote not only signals our unwavering support for the Taiwanese people but our recognition of the pivotal role that the United States Congress must play in confronting these challenges,” he added.
Despite Menendez’s goals, China was already grumbling about the prospect of the Senate vote. The Chinese government-owned Global Times cited Chinese experts who said that passing the bill would “lead to the complete elimination of the U.S.’s ‘one-China policy’ and that China would take strong countermeasures.”
Another source quoted in the Chinese paper said the bill is “far more serious than Nancy Pelosi’s provocative visit to Taiwan island” in August.