U.S. to Support Taiwan Defense in South China Sea

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The United States is now authorized to provide “assistance and training” to Taiwan and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region as outlined in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal year 2016.

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives approved changes the Senate had made to the NDAA 2016 in June. Both bodies had been at odds over provisions in two different versions of the bill, which annually authorizes defense spending for the upcoming fiscal year.

Unlike last year’s version, the reconciled NDAA affirms supporting Taiwan “for the purpose of increasing maritime security and maritime domain awareness of foreign countries along the South China Sea.”

Other nations authorized to receive this security measure include Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei and Singapore.

The reconciled bill comes as China continues raising concern in the Asia-Pacific region over its artificial island building and territorial ambitions in the disputed South China Sea.

Specifically, the NDAA 2016 notes that  “the United States should continue to support the efforts of Taiwan to integrate innovative and asymmetric measures to balance the growing military capabilities of the People’s Republic of China, including fast-attack craft, coastal-defense cruise missiles, rapid-runway repair systems, offensive mines, and submarines optimized for defense of the Taiwan straits.”

However, the new bill lacks a previous amendment requiring the secretary of defense to invite Taiwan to participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). Last week, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy accepted an invitation to participate in RIMPAC, according to The Diplomat.  

The move to step back from inviting Taiwan may have been taken as a measure to avoid angering Beijing and loosing valuable diplomatic weight at a time when the U.S.-China bilateral relationship is not exactly at an all-time high, as Michael Thim noted in the National Interest in May..

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