National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Date: June 11, 2018
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Foreign Affairs


Mr. GARDNER. Madam President, as the eyes of the world are fixed on Singapore, I rise today to discuss another important development in our Nation's diplomatic efforts in the Indo-Pacific.

Tomorrow, we will open a new chapter in the relationship between the United States and our longstanding friend and ally Taiwan by opening the new complex of the American Institute in Taiwan, or AIT, which serves as a de facto U.S. Embassy in Taiwan. You can see the ``Strong Foundation, Bright Future''--this incredible new facility in Taiwan to replace the existing facility we have. I am pleased that Marie Royce, the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, will attend the ceremony on behalf of the United States. Along with my colleagues, Senators Rubio, Inhofe, and Cornyn, I sent a letter and called for a Cabinet-level official to attend the ceremony as well. There are a lot of things going on in Asia on June 12.

The opening of this state-of-the-art complex comes at a most opportune time as a demonstration of strong U.S. support for the people of Taiwan. I join my colleagues in Congress in welcoming this new facility and thanking the men and women of our Foreign Service in Taipei and around the world for their service to our Nation.

The new AIT facility will cultivate the relationship between the United States and Taiwan and further demonstrate the commitment of the United States to bolster its friendship and commercial and defensive partnership with Taiwan.

Today, I also announce that I will be introducing a resolution welcoming the new AIT complex. I encourage my colleagues to cosponsor this resolution to express our support and excitement for this new facility.

Taiwan is a free, democratic, and prosperous nation of 23 million people and an important contributor to peace and stability around the world. In many ways, Taiwan should serve as the model for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which governs our unofficial relations with Taiwan, calls ``to preserve and promote extensive, close, and friendly commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people of Taiwan.'' The Taiwan Relations Act also unequivocally states that it is the policy of the United States ``to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.''

Since the election of President Tsai in 2016, Taiwan has been under unrelenting pressure from Beijing in a shameful and dangerous effort to deprive Taiwan of international legitimacy and to undermine the fragile status quo between Beijing and Taipei. In the last month alone, Taiwan lost two diplomatic allies--the Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso. Taipei has also once again been shut out of the World Health Assembly due to pressure from Beijing. Despite this decision, despite this treatment, Taiwan has nevertheless made a very generous donation of $1 million to the World Health Organization for Ebola-related relief efforts.

It is time for the United States to aggressively push back against Beijing's effort to undermine a free Taiwan. Two weeks ago, I had an opportunity to visit Taipei and meet with President Tsai and personally thank her for her friendship and Taiwan's valuable contributions to global peace and stability. I think that friendship can be seen in this new AIT facility.

I have also introduced two bipartisan bills in the Senate that will enhance U.S. relations with Taiwan and send a very strong message to Beijing that the United States will never--the United States will never--abandon our friends in Taipei.

The first bill is the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, or ARIA, which is a bill that presents a new, comprehensive policy framework for U.S. policy toward the Indo-Pacific.

We introduced ARIA on April 24, 2018, with a group of bipartisan cosponsors, including Senators Markey, Cardin, Rubio, and Young. Senators Sullivan and Perdue, with whom I traveled to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last week, have also joined in this effort.

ARIA recognizes that Taiwan should be front and center in our Indo- Pacific strategy. ARIA states that it is the policy of the United States to faithfully enforce all existing U.S. commitments to Taiwan, as enshrined in the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 and the six assurances offered by President Ronald Reagan in 1982.

ARIA also authorizes the sale of advanced weapons, weapon parts, and upgrades to Taiwan, consistent with U.S. law, and urges the President to regularize the arms sales consultation process with Congress.

Finally, it authorizes high-level military and diplomatic contacts with Taipei, consistent with the Taiwan Travel Act, which was signed into law by President Trump on March 16, 2018.

Beijing wants to push Washington out of the Indo-Pacific, and the Trump Administration and Congress may finally be developing a serious strategy to respond.

Trillions of dollars of trade annually float through the Indo-Pacific, which stretches from East Africa through East Asia. In recent years China has built military bases on artificial islands hundreds of miles from its shores, ignoring international law and a 2016 ruling by a United Nations tribunal.

The buildup has accelerated in recent weeks, as China has deployed antiship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jammers on the Spratly islands and even nuclear- capable bombers on nearby Woody Island. This violates an explicit promise that Chinese President Xi Jinping made to Barack Obama in 2015 that ``China does not intend to pursue militarization'' on the Spratlys.

The next step could be deployed forces. At that point ``China will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power deep into Oceania,'' Admiral Philip Davidson, who leads the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said in April.

In the face of China's buildup, the U.S. has shown uneven commitment. Mr. Obama limited freedom-of-navigation patrols to avoid a confrontation and never committed the resources to make his ``pivot to Asia'' a reality. China saw Mr. Obama's hesitation and kept advancing. The growing concern is that China will begin to dictate the terms of navigation to the world and coerce weaker neighboring countries to agree to its foreign policy and trading goals.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis lately has been putting this concern front and center. He recently rescinded an invitation to the Chinese navy to participate in the multinational Rimpac exercises off Hawaii this summer. And at the annual Shangri-La security dialogue in Singapore this weekend, Mr. Mattis said that ``the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion.''

He pointed to the Rimpac cancellation as a ``small consequence'' of this behavior and said there could be ``larger consequences,'' albeit unspecified, in the future.

One such consequence could be more frequent and regular freedom-of-navigation operations inside the 12-mile territorial waters claimed by China. Joint operations with allies would have an even greater deterrent effect, and the U.S. should encourage others to join. Beijing will try to punish any country that sails with the U.S., but that will underscore the coercive nature of its plans.

Believe it or not, Congress is also trying to help with the bipartisan Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA). The Senate bill affirms core American alliances with Australia, Japan and South Korea, while calling for deeper military and economic ties with India and Taiwan. It notably encourages regular weapons sales to Taipei.

The bill authorizes $1.5 billion a year over five years to fund regular military exercises and improve defenses throughout the region. It also funds the fight against Southeast Asian terror groups, including Islamic State. This will help, but more will be needed. This year's $61 billion military spending increase was more backfill than buildup, and China recently boosted its defense budget 8.1%.

ARIA also tries to address Mr. Trump's major strategic blunder of withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which didn't include China. The Senate bill grants the President power to negotiate new bilateral and multilateral trade deals.

It also calls for the export of liquefied natural gas to the Indo-Pacific and authorizes the U.S. Trade Representative to negotiate a deal with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). If the U.S. had a trade rep who believed in trade, this could strengthen the U.S. relationship with Vietnam and the Philippines--countries at odds with China over its territorial claims and militarism.

The bill is backed by Republicans Cory Gardner and Marco Rubio and Democrats Ben Cardin and Ed Markey, which is a wide ideological net. China's rise, and Mr. Xi's determination to make China the dominant power in the Indo-Pacific, is a generational challenge that will require an enduring, bipartisan strategy and commitment. A firmer stand to deter Chinese military expansionism is an essential start.


Mr. GARDNER. On May 24, 2018, I also filed the Taiwan International Participation Act, or TIPA, with Senator Markey. This bipartisan effort establishes that it should be the policy of the United States to support Taiwan's participation in appropriate international organizations, to instruct U.S. representatives in international organizations to use the voice and vote of the United States to support Taiwan's inclusion in appropriate international organizations around the globe, and to direct the President and his representatives to raise Taiwan's participation in appropriate international organizations during relevant bilateral engagements with the government of the PRC.

I call on my colleagues to support both of these important pieces of legislation, which are efforts to show our strong support for the people of Taiwan. There is much more we can do and we should do to enhance our relationship with Taiwan, and I call on the administration to undertake all efforts allowable under U.S. law to enhance our relationship with Taipei.

The opening of this new facility tomorrow, this new AIT complex--in fact, just a few hours from now--is a great sign of friendship and commitment from the United States, and I congratulate all those who have made this possible.

In my conversation with President Tsai, I talked about how Taiwan is really a great leader from whom we should learn and recognize and value their leadership around the globe. I think the million-dollar contribution they made to combat Ebola issues is just one small signal that they have an important role to play on the world stage, and I hope our allies around the globe will continue to engage Taiwan, as appropriate, and make sure they have that strong international voice that they sometimes feel to be lacking today.

I encourage my colleagues to stand up to support Taiwan. I congratulate AIT on this new facility and certainly look forward to engaging Taiwan even more as we move forward.