US bill lets top defense officials visit Taiwan

12-Dec-2016 Intellasia | Chinapost | 6:00 AM Print This Post

In a move that could produce breakthroughs in Washington-Taipei military relations, the US Senate adopted a conference report of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) that allows high-level Pentagon officials to visit Taiwan.

If signed into law by US President Barack Obama, Pentagon officials higher than the level of assistant defense secretary would be allowed to visit Taiwan.

The Senate approved the 2017 NDAA in 92-7 vote Thursday after the bill had cleared the House of Representatives last week.

The conference report accompanying the bill calls on the Pentagon to carry out a programme for exchanges between senior officials and officers from Taiwan and the United States to improve military relations between the two sides.

Exchanges are defined as activities, exercises, events or observation opportunities between Taiwan and US military officials.

The report said the focus of the exchanges should be on seven areas: threat analysis; military doctrine; troops planning; logistical support; intelligence gathering and analysis; operational strategies, techniques and procedures; and humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

The report defines “senior officers” as active military personnel, and “senior Pentagon officials” as those on the level of assistant defense secretary and higher.

US State Department officials handling less sensitive matters, such as international organisations and commerce, have visited Taiwan. But senior US military officials have not visited Taiwan since the two countries severed diplomatic ties in 1979.

The United Evening New cited unnamed sources who said it was “very unlikely” that the US president would block a bill that had the overwhelming support of Congress.

Observers said the bill carried great symbolic meaning but that it remained to be seen whether US-Taiwan military exchanges would truly see breakthroughs.

The US military has regularly sent personnel to observe Taiwan’s annual military drills, but the observation teams have been led by retired generals.

It is uncertain whether the bill will bring about changes to the formation of the observing teams.

And it is also uncertain to what extent President-elect Donald Trump will carry out the suggestions in the bill after taking office.

Earlier this month when the NDAA conference report was released, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said it welcomed the call for military exchanges between the two countries.

The ministry’s spokeswoman, Eleanor Wang, said Taiwan appreciated the US Congress’ continued efforts to improve Taipei-Washington ties, and to promote bilateral cooperation and exchanges in military affairs.

http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/foreign-affairs/2016/12/10/486349/US-bill.htm

 


Category: Taiwan

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