The U.S. House passed a pair of bills seeking greater diplomatic support for Taiwan, a move that could test China ties already strained over trade disputes and North Korea.
One bill would encourage visits between the U.S. and Taiwan “at all levels,” specifically citing “cabinet-level national security officials.” Such exchanges would effectively raise the diplomatic status of the democratically run island, which U.S. officials have avoided since recognizing the government in Beijing under the “one-China” policy in 1979.
The other piece of legislation urges the U.S. State Department to develop a strategy to help Taiwan regain its observer status in the World Health Organization, countering one recent Chinese effort to increase the island’s diplomatic isolation.
“We should be supporting countries that have achieved democracy to serve as inspiration for these values across the Asia Pacific,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a California Republican. “I applaud the House in passing two bills today that send a strong message of support to our friend and partner, Taiwan.”
The bills, which were passed by voice vote Tuesday, would still need Senate approval and U.S. President Donald Trump’s signature to become law. Although the U.S. has often played down its military aid and unofficial diplomatic support for Taiwan over the years, the Trump administration has taken a increasingly confrontation tone toward China over trade policies, North Korea and other security issues.
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China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government fled to Taipei in 1949, and the Communist Party regards the island as a province to be taken by force if necessary. Efforts to improve ties between the sides soured in 2016, after Tsai Ing-wen, the leader of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, was elected president.
Last month, a senior Chinese diplomat in Washington said that China would “unify” Taiwan by military force if a U.S. warship visited under a defense authorization approved last year.