U.S. says new law not aimed at highlighting cross-strait tensions

The United States has a strong security relationship with Taiwan and its recent legislation on military exchanges with Taiwan was not aimed at highlighting tensions across the Taiwan Strait, the U.S. State Department said Tuesday.

“Our policy with regard to Taiwan is exactly the same, hasn’t changed,” State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said at a daily pressing briefing. “We believe in a ‘one China’ policy. There’s been no change to that policy.”

In response to questions about the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017 that was signed into law Dec. 23 amid strained cross-strait ties, Toner said the U.S. was not seeking to highlight cross-strait tensions.

He also said the U.S. has “a strong security relationship with Taiwan.”

Questions on the issue were raised at the press briefing after U.S. President Barack Obama on Dec. 23 signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, which included for the first time a section on exchanges of senior military personnel between Taiwan and the U.S.

The bill cleared the Senate in a 92-7 vote on Dec. 8 after it was approved in the House of Representatives by a vote of 375-34 on Dec. 2.

Section 1284 of the act states that it is the sense of Congress that “the Secretary of Defense should carry out a program of exchanges of senior military officers and senior officials between the United States and Taiwan designed to improve military to military relations between the United States and Taiwan.”

It defines an exchange as “an activity, exercise, event, or observation opportunity between members of the Armed Forces and officials of the Department of Defense, on the one hand, and armed forces personnel and officials of Taiwan, on the other hand.”

It remains to be seen whether or how the new administration under President Donald Trump will act on this section of the act after he formally takes office in January.

Taiwan has said it welcomes the inclusion of military exchanges with Taiwan in the act and hopes for continued cooperation between the two sides.

China, meanwhile, has expressed opposition to the Taiwan-related content of the new U.S. act.

“We are strongly discontented with the U.S. for signing this act,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) said at a news conference in Beijing on Dec. 26.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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