Gardner, Rubio want more military cooperation with Taiwan

Author: Joel Gehrke, The Washington Examiner - April 26, 2018 - Updated: April 26, 2018

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., left, speaks to the media in this Jan. 22, 2018, file photo. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

President Trump should enhance military cooperation with Taiwan as part of an effort to counter Chinese aggression in the Asia-Pacific, according to a newly unveiled proposal from four senators.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., wants Trump to authorize “regular arms sales to Taiwan” and expand the U.S. Navy’s presence in the region, where China has made a series of aggressive assertions of sovereignty over key shipping lanes. Those security proposals contribute to one plank of a broader package known as the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, which lawmakers hope will guide the administration in maintaining the U.S. alliance system around a rising China.

“This initiative is a generational approach that will put American interests first by reassuring our allies, deterring our adversaries, and securing U.S. leadership in the region for future generations,” Gardner, who has a chaired a series of Foreign Relations subcommittee hearings on U.S.-China policy, said Tuesday.

The Colorado Republican introduced the bill just days after China and Taiwan held a sequence of military drills in the Straits of Taiwan. The war games were a live-fire reminder of China’s ambition to regain control of the island, which it has regarded as a breakaway province ever since the Communist regime overthrew the previous government of China.

“Simply put, the main goal of the drill is to make any Chinese communist military mission to invade Taiwan fail,” a spokesman for Taiwan’s defense ministry told reporters. “It simulates this year’s situation and we are taking into consideration China’s air and naval movements in the region.”

The legislation also calls for additional naval operations in the South China Sea, one of the world’s primary shipping lanes. The Chinese government, claiming sovereignty over much of the sea, has built a series of artificial islands replete with military installations in recent years.

The legislation is also co-sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, who was the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee for much of the last three years. “With China’s increasingly assertive rise, it is critical that the United States reaffirm our commitment to securing a free and open Indo-Pacific region through enhanced cooperation with our democratic partners,” Rubio said.

The bill has an economic component as well, perhaps most notably by “authoriz[ing] bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations with Indo-Pacific nations,” as a background paper on the legislation puts it.

“U.S. relations with our Asian allies, partners, and adversaries will dominate the 21st century, and we need a clear set of strategic policies to bolster our national security and economic interests, framed in the values that define who we are – democratic principles, human rights, and the rule of law,” Cardin said in his statement accompanying the bill’s release. “I’m pleased this legislation places such a high premium on those priorities.”

“We believe that with this bipartisan vision for our Asia policy, the Administration and Congress can be united on implementing a long-term strategy that will benefit American national security interests, promote American businesses and create jobs through trade opportunities, and project American values of respect for the human rights and freedom that have made America the shining city upon a hill,” Gardner said.

Joel Gehrke, The Washington Examiner