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U.S. House passes 2020 NDAA supporting U.S. arms sales to Taiwan

2019-07-14  English News
Photo courtesy of CNA
Photo courtesy of CNA
U.S. Representative Michael McCaul (left) and President Tsai Ing-wen/Photo courtesy of CNA
U.S. Representative Michael McCaul (left) and President Tsai Ing-wen/Photo courtesy of CNA

Washington, New York, July 12 (CNA) The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday voted to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020, which includes a section supporting continued U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

According to a version of the bill released on June 19, the U.S. Congress expresses its sense in Section 1248 on Taiwan that Washington should "continue to support the acquisition by Taiwan of appropriate defensive weapons...with a particular emphasis on asymmetric warfare, information sharing, air defense, and maritime capabilities."

In addition, the U.S. government is urged to improve the "predictability of arms sales" to Taiwan by ensuring timely review and response to its requests for defense articles and services, the bill states.

The bill also calls on the U.S. Secretary of Defense to promote policies concerning cooperation and exchanges that enhance the security of Taiwan, including exchanges between American and Taiwanese senior defense officials and general officers in accordance with the Taiwan Travel Act.

The U.S. House passed the annual defense spending bill by an unusually narrow vote of 220-197, with no Republicans backing the legislation in what is a normally bipartisan process.

The U.S. Senate on June 27 already passed a different version of the NDAA for fiscal year 2020, which includes a similar section on Taiwan.

Because the chambers must pass identical versions of the same bill before it can be signed by U.S. President Donald Trump, the House and Senate will meet in a conference committee to reconcile their two versions of the legislation.

The House's passage of the NDAA bill came hours after Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang announced Beijing's plan to impose sanctions on U.S. enterprises involved in a recently announced arms sale to Taiwan, which he said constituted "a serious violation of the 'one China' principle."

The U.S. announced Monday an US$2.22 billion arms package to Taiwan that included 108 M1A2T Abrams Tanks and relevant equipment and support, 250 Block I-92F MANPAD Stinger missiles, and four Block I-92 MANPAD Stinger Fly-to-Buy missiles and related equipment.

Not included were advanced F-16s that Taiwan has long sought. But U.S. Representative Michael McCaul told media after attending a banquet held by Tsai on Friday for several members of Congress that the White House is expected to send a request for 66 F-16s to be approved by the Congress.

"We just recently approved US$2 billion in military assistance to Taiwan so that Taiwan can defend herself," McCaul said, adding that the potential signing of a free trade agreement between Taiwan and the U.S. was also discussed at the banquet.

Tsai embarked on a 12-day visit to four Caribbean diplomatic allies on July 11 (Taipei time), and is in New York on a two-and-a-half-day visit before heading to the Caribbean. She will also stop in Denver on her way back to Taiwan.