In recent days, lawmakers in Washington have taken new steps to signal their support for Taiwan, a rare show of unity in an otherwise extremely polarised Congress.
A bipartisan pair of senators on Friday introduced a resolution declaring support for the democratic island’s strengthening ties with Lithuania, the small Baltic nation that has brushed off Beijing’s anger and embraced Taipei as a like-minded government staring down a powerful, authoritarian China.
“This resolution sends a message that when our friends stand up to Chinese malign influence, the United States will support them,” said Senator James Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the foreign affairs committee.
Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.
“I applaud the Lithuanian government for refusing to allow its foreign policy to be dictated by outside powers, and I fully support all nations in strengthening relations with Taiwan,” he said.
Jeanne Shaheen, the New Hampshire Democrat who chairs the committee’s Europe subcommittee, said that “the United States stands in solidarity with Lithuania against China’s abuse” and posted the resolution on Twitter.
China is attempting to spread its malign influence across democracies in Eastern Europe, & Lithuania is leading the way in standing up to China's abuse. I'm proud to lead this bipartisan resolution w/ @SenatorRisch to strengthen U.S. support for Lithuania & Taiwan against China. pic.twitter.com/3rUJONJ0TW
— Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (@SenatorShaheen) November 7, 2021
In July, Lithuania – which, like the US, does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan – announced it would open Taipei’s de facto Lithuanian embassy under the name of the “Taiwanese Representative Office”. Such informal embassies usually use the name “Taipei” instead of “Taiwan”.
Beijing, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan, reacted furiously, recalling its ambassador to Lithuania and moving to stop Chinese freight trains from travelling to the country.
The resolution, if it passes, would be a nonbinding expression of senators’ sentiment on the issue.
It also came just after the introduction of separate bipartisan Congressional legislation, from Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, and Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, to establish a new joint US-Taiwan infectious diseases monitoring centre.
Khanna is considered one of the US House of Representatives’ most progressive members and Cotton is regarded as one of the Senate’s most conservative lawmakers – a further sign of Taiwan’s broad support on Capitol Hill.
Taiwan, which is blocked by China from formally participating in UN bodies, including the World Health Organization, has received broad praise for its efforts to keep the Covid-19 pandemic under control without the population-control measures available to authoritarian governments like China.
“Beijing’s efforts to exclude Taiwan from the global health community have had deadly consequences,” said Cotton. “Our bill will ensure the United States has the resources it needs to monitor health threats emerging in the Indo-Pacific and will allow Taiwan to share its knowledge with the world.”
Another bill introduced last week by a group of Republican senators – the Taiwan Deterrence Act – would let Congress to spend US$2 billion annually in military financing for Taiwan.
It would also update the existing law governing military sales to “better facilitate arms transfers to Taiwan,” according to a memo from Risch.
“This legislation would ensure that the United States continues to support Taiwan in its effort to counter Chinese aggression and coercion by bolstering our support of Taiwan’s defence capabilities,” said Senator Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican who is a co-sponsor.
The moves on Capitol Hill all come as Beijing increases its pressure on Taiwan and its 23 million citizens.
China’s military has flown hundreds of fighter jets near the island over the last year, and US President Joe Biden said late last month that the US would come to Taiwan’s defence if it was attacked by Beijing.
The White House later clarified that its official policy remains one of “strategic ambiguity” – meaning it will not say whether or how it would respond if China attacked Taiwan. Some lawmakers from both parties have also called for an end to strategic ambiguity.
More from South China Morning Post:
This article US senators introduce resolution praising Lithuania for strengthening relations with Taiwan first appeared on South China Morning Post