Taiwanese and US flags during a rally in Taipei. Photo: Twitter
Taiwanese and US flags during a rally in Taipei. Photo: Twitter

The US Senate passed the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act of 2018 this week, which includes a section reaffirming the United States’ commitment to Taiwan, particularly in the form of arms sales.

Senators reportedly spent nearly three years on the bipartisan legislation, which says that it is US policy to combat attempts to change the status quo of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, at a time when Beijing is throwing its economic clout around to pressure other countries to end their diplomatic recognition of Taipei.

The final legislation was introduced by Senator Cory Gardner in April, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific and International Cybersecurity Policy.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Ed Markey, Marco Rubio, Ben Cardin and Todd Young.

It serves as a policy framework to improve US leadership in the Indo-Pacific region and to demonstrate a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and the rules-based international order, Gardner said in a statement on Wednesday.

Section 209 of the bill states that it is US policy to support a close economic, political and security relationship with Taiwan.

The bill states that the US will enforce all existing government commitments to Taiwan, consistent with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiqués between the US and China and the “six assurances” for Taiwan proposed by then-US president Ronald Reagan in 1982.

“The US supports a peaceful resolution acceptable to both sides of the Taiwan Strait,” Section 209 says.

The bill states that the US president should conduct regular transfers of defense articles to Taiwan that are tailored to meet the existing and likely future threats from mainland China. The US should also support Taiwanese efforts to develop and integrate asymmetric capabilities into its military forces as appropriate, including mobile and cost-effective capabilities.

The US president should also encourage high-level US officials to travel to Taiwan in accordance with the Taiwan Travel Act, it says.

The bill also affirms India’s unique designation as a “major defense partner.” In a nod to the oft-neglected subcontinental role in regional policy, it also calls specifically for expanding “cooperation with democratic partners in South Asia, including Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.”

Gardner urged “swift action in the House of Representatives” to send this legislation to President Donald Trump’s desk for him to sign it into law. He is worried that with less than a month left before the 115th Congress ends in January and Democrats take control of the House, it is uncertain whether the bill would clear the lower chamber in time.

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