US defense bill suggests participating in Taiwan drill
National Defense Authorization Act for 2019 has already drawn Beijing's ire even before becoming law
The US National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019 currently being finalized in the Senate has suggested the Pentagon’s “participation in appropriate Taiwan exercises, such as the annual Han Kuang exercise,” and that it should strongly support the sale of defensive weapons “with a particular emphasis on asymmetric warfare and undersea and submarine warfare capabilities.”
The Han Kuang Exercise is an annual island-wide war game held by Taiwan since 1984 to simulate resisting an all-out attack by the People’s Liberation Army, aimed at keeping the Taiwanese military and the island’s defense mobilization as a whole war-ready at all times.
The US bill, yet to be sent to President Donald Trump to be signed into law, also said the US should improve the “predictability of arms sales” to Taiwan by ensuring timely review of and response to requests by Taiwan for defense items and defense services.
It also stipulates that the US secretary of defense should comprehensively assess Taiwan’s defense capabilities and provide recommendations for improvement and report these to Congress.
Accordingly, a host of areas have been outlined for such evaluation and advice. They include the use of reserves; personnel management; force development; recruitment and training; command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; technological research and development; procurement; logistics; strategic planning; and resource management.
Visits by US hospital ships to Taiwan are also recommended as part of the annual Pacific Partnership military exercise.
The bill must be passed by both houses of the US Congress before becoming law. The House of Representatives is scheduled to cast a vote next week, and the Senate is expected to vote before it recesses in August.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was quick to voice gratitude in a statement on Wednesday after the two houses worked out a final version of the bill, whereas Beijing on Thursday lashed out at several propositions aimed at shielding Taiwan from mainland China’s threats, as well as the proposal to contain China’s “coercive activities” in the South China Sea.