0505: New Bill to Fast-track U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan; Chinese Disinformation; China’s Aircraft Carrier on Training in Western Pacific

Bill Introduced in Senate to Fast-track U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan

On May 3, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bill aimed at fast-tracking the transfer of U.S. weapon systems to Taiwan and strengthening joint military training to make sure Taiwan can defend itself in case of a Chinese invasion.

In a statement released by the Senator’s office, Rubio said he proposed the “Taiwan Peace Through Strength Act” (S.4129) because what happened in Ukraine will not be the last time an authoritarian regime invades its neighbor.

“An invasion of Taiwan could happen within this decade. Taiwan needs our support,” Rubio said, adding that the bill he introduced “will make [Chinese President] Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party think twice before launching a foolish invasion.”

The bill requires the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to conduct an annual review of U.S. war plans to defend Taiwan and develop a list of specific capabilities that Taiwan is approved to acquire based on that assessment, the statement said.

The bill would fast-track foreign military sales (FMS) to Taiwan by requiring the U.S. Department of State to pre-clear the capabilities identified in the DoD annual review for expedited transfer to Taiwan.

It also asks the DoD to compel defense contractors to place Taiwan’s FMS orders ahead of those of other countries on the production line, regardless of the order in which the contracts were signed.

It further proposes to amend the Taiwan Relations Act to “replace outdated language regarding ‘arms of a defensive character’ with new language that sets an enhanced standard for arms sales to deter conflict with the PLA [Chinese People’s Liberation Army].”

The bill also recommends the establishment of a comprehensive joint training program aimed at improving Taiwan’s defense capabilities, among others.

FAPA President Minze Chien reacts: “In light of the horrendous developments in Ukraine since February 24, the introduction of the bill is very important and timely. However, we need to exercise extreme caution with any plan to open up and amend the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).”

Dr. Chien adds: “The TRA provides a ‘minimum’ U.S. commitment to Taiwan to further build on. Opening up the TRA itself for amendment will create an opportunity for everyone (including the Chinese) to start adding and subtracting to its text. We need to be very careful that we do not end up with something less than what we bargain for.”

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202205040006
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/05/05/2003777736

Taiwan on the Frontlines of Chinese Disinformation and Cyberattacks

Taiwan is on the frontlines of Chinese disinformation and cyberattacks, which is why the U.S. is partnering with Taiwan to build greater resilience against China’s disinformation efforts, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on May 3. 

Asked to comment on the State Department’s repeated warnings that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has tried for years to pressure media outlets in Taiwan to not publish articles critical of Beijing, Blinken said “Taiwan is quite literally on the frontlines of the PRC’s hybrid warfare, including disinformation, including cyberattacks.”

Such warfare is designed to distort the information environment and democratic processes, he said at a press event at the State Department’s Washington Foreign Press Center on World Press Freedom Day.

To counter such attacks, the U.S. has joined with Taiwan authorities and civil society organizations, “to support independent, fact-based journalism, to try to build societal resilience to disinformation and other forms of foreign interference,” he said.

Blinken said the U.S. has made it clear that free speech is incredibly important both at home and around the world.

He reiterated Washington’s deep concern that China has been misusing technology to increase “surveillance, harassment, intimidation, censorship of PRC citizens, of journalists, of activists and others.”

He also accused leaders in Beijing of using other countries’ free and open media to spread Chinese propaganda and disinformation and to threaten critics even outside the PRC’s territory.

“We’ve condemned and we’ve taken action against these efforts, and we’ll continue to defend the principles of a free press, an open, secure, reliable, and interoperable internet and the benefits that flow from it,” Blinken said.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202205040004
[2] Taiwan News: https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4527190

Chinese Aircraft Carrier Battle Group Conducts Combat Training in Western Pacific: Japan Military

On May 3, Taiwan’s military said it had a clear grasp of the military activities of nearby Chinese forces a day after Japan’s Self-Defense Force said China’s Navy had recently deployed an aircraft carrier battle group into the Western Pacific Ocean to conduct combat training.

Taiwan’s military said it closely monitors Chinese military maneuvers in waters and airspace surrounding Taiwan, and would take “appropriate response measures,” without elaborating.

On May 2, Japan’s Self-Defense Force announced that China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier and seven accompanying destroyers and supply vessels had left the East China Sea and passed through the Miyako Strait — a key gateway into the Western Pacific Ocean near Japan’s Okinawa — before entering the Pacific to conduct training.

The Liaoning had not been seen in the area since last December, when the carrier led another flotilla on a round-trip voyage through the Miyako Strait for similar military training with fighter jets, helicopters, and other warships.

On May 2, Taiwanese media also quoted local fishermen as saying they had spotted unidentified Chinese warships in the East China Sea while operating near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (Senkaku Islands) earlier in the day.

Taiwan’s local media reported that the Chinese aircraft carrier battle group is expected to hold exercises at sea in waters east of Taiwan.

In response, unnamed military sources told local media that Taiwan’s military has beefed up its combat readiness and is closely monitoring the Chinese drill.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202205030005
[2] Japan Times: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/05/05/national/china-aircraft-carrier-exercises-east-china-sea/