Senators Propose Enhancing Taiwan Defense in Face of China Threat

Senators from both sides of the aisle introduced new legislation on Tuesday that would see the National Guard establish a formal working relationship with Taiwan's military at a time of increased security threats from China.

The Taiwan Partnership Act, filed to Congress by a group of 13 Republicans and Democrats, would be non-binding but signal that the United States "should continue to support the development of capable, ready, and modern defense forces for Taiwan to maintain its self-defense."

The unofficial relationship between Washington and Taipei is guided by the keystone legislation known as the Taiwan Relations Act, provisions of which allow the U.S. to sell defensive articles to the self-ruled island that is under constant threat from Beijing's "unification" ambitions.

The bipartisan act, however, proposes that the U.S. formally step up its security cooperation by developing a partnership program between the National Guard and Taiwanese defense forces. The bill also calls for increasing exchanges between American and Taiwanese defense officials and officers "to improve interoperability, improve Taiwan's reserve forces, and expand humanitarian and disaster relief cooperation."

The program would help expand "Taiwan's capability to conduct security activities, including traditional combatant commands, cooperation with the National Guard, and multilateral activities," according to a joint statement released by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

The new partnership, which was also introduced in the House on the same day, would "ensure a well-integrated defense force capable of fast deployment during a crisis," they said.

"Taiwan is a critical ally in a region facing growing destabilization and competition for power. This legislation would help ensure the National Guard is ready to act in support of Taiwan should its autonomy be threatened," Cornyn said.

Duckworth, a National Guard veteran who served in Iraq, called Taiwan "an important strategic partner for the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific region."

"I'm introducing this bipartisan bill with Senator Cornyn to evaluate the feasibility of enhanced cooperation between our two peoples on important issues like emergency response, cyber defense, education, cultural exchange and advisor programs," said Duckworth, who was among three serving senators to make a noteworthy visit to Taipei on June 6.

Duckworth said the National Guard was "ideally suited to help build partner capacity across this range of skill sets in Taiwan."

Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida said in a separate statement: "As Communist China escalates its aggression toward Taiwan, the United States must make clear that we stand with our great ally and the Taiwanese people in defense of its democracy."

"This legislation carries an important message to General Secretary Xi that we will not tolerate his threats against Taiwan's autonomy," he added.

Other cosponsors of the Taiwan Partnership Act include Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), James Lankford (R-OK), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Todd Young (R-IN), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS).

In the lower house, the legislation was tabled by Representatives Mike Gallagher (WI-08), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Lisa McClain (MI-10) and Stephanie Murphy (FL-07).

Senators Propose US-Taiwan Defense Cooperation
File photo: Soldiers stands to attention during an annual drill at the a military base in Hualien, Taiwan, on January 30, 2018. MANDY CHENG/AFP via Getty Images