US President Joe Biden signed a Defense Policy Bill for Fiscal Year 2022 that would help strengthen Taiwan’s defense capabilities and allow the island to be invited to the Rim of the Pacific military exercise (RIMPAC) this summer.
Both houses of the US Congress voted earlier in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which defines the country’s defense policy and budget. Biden signed the US $ 768.2 billion law on Monday.
The bill contains specific sections on defense relations with Taiwan and suggests “to conduct practical training and military exercises with Taiwan, including, where appropriate, inviting Taiwan to participate in the Rim of the Pacific carried out in 2022 â.
EXERCISE RIMPAC is the world’s largest multinational maritime warfare exercise held every two years since 1974. Previously, it was held annually. The exercise is hosted by the Indo-Pacific Command of the US Navy and joined by Marines from around two dozen countries.
A number of South East Asian countries have been invited. China participated in 2014 and 2016, when US-China relations were more cordial.
Taiwan has yet to comment on the prospect of joining RIMPAC – a step that would anger China. Earlier in December, before the NDAA became law, Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng indicated that Taiwan needed to have an internal discussion on the applicability of the bill to Taiwan. He said Taiwan would use and assess what it could benefit from.
Collin Koh, a researcher at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore, said an invitation to Taiwan to participate in RIMPAC would be of great importance, and not just in terms of defense.
âUnlike visits to Taiwan by US policymakers, and vice versa, as well as behind-the-scenes defense exchanges, RIMPAC is a large-scale international naval exercise that will significantly raise Taiwan’s profile,â Koh said.
“If it is allowed to send not only observers, but to participate as a full participant – that is, to send ships, this will become a major opportunity for Taiwan,” he said. -he adds.
But Koh warned that if Taiwan is invited as a full participant, âsome other countries may decide not to participate for fear of offending Beijing. So, talking about Taiwan in RIMPAC is more complicated than you might imagine.
Strengthening Taiwan’s Self-Defense
China regards Taiwan as a separatist province and is committed to reuniting it with the mainland, by force if necessary. Chinese military activity in the Taiwan Strait has intensified in recent months, with hundreds of military planes exiting Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in what observers see as a campaign intimidation.
Ely Ratner, US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing earlier this month that “strengthening Taiwan’s self-defense is a urgent task and an essential element of deterrence “.
Some other sections of the newly signed bill recommend strengthening Taiwan’s asymmetric defenses, including “coastal defense missiles, naval mines, anti-aircraft capabilities, cyber defenses, and special operations forces.” Asymmetric defense refers to the ability to defend against a more powerful opponent.
The bill says that “it will be the policy of the United States to maintain the ability of the United States to resist a fait accompli which would endanger the safety of the people of Taiwan.”
The term “fait accompli” refers to China’s use of force to “invade and take control of Taiwan before the United States can respond effectively.”
The US Secretary of Defense is urged to submit a report by February 15, 2022 on the “feasibility and desirability” of enhanced cooperation between the US National Guard and Taiwan.
So far, the U.S. military has not conducted any bilateral and joint exercises with Taiwan, but It has been reported in October a number of US military trainers have been deployed to the island for at least a year.
US troops have not been permanently based on the island since Washington established diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979.
The United States is Taiwan’s largest arms supplier with deals made worth more than $ 23 billion since 2010.