Last Friday, President Trump signed into law the Taiwan Travel Act, which makes it a U.S. policy to allow high-level meetings between Taiwan and U.S. government officials. News reports about the law have often described it as “non-binding.” This “not legally binding” view is widely shared, including by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But this reading is not quite right.
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The Taiwan Travel Act, which passed the Senate on Feb. 28 and is heading to the president for his signature, will have limited legal force since it does not require the president to do anything he cannot already do under the U.S. Constitution. But that does not mean the law is purely symbolic. It is likely to have a significant impact on U.S.-Taiwan policy, and consequently, on the increasingly fragile U.S.-China relationship.
The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant vessel in the Straits of Malacca at 5:24 am local time on Monday morning, resulting in one confirmed U.S. Navy casualty, nine sailors still missing, and several others injured.
Satellite photograph showing Chinese ships near Thitu (Pag-asa) Island (Photo: AMTI)
Photo: Svetl. Tebenkova
(Photo: Center for Strategic and International Studies/Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, DigitalGlobe)
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted on Wednesday to send the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2018 to the full Senate. The bill contains a provision “re-establishing regular ports of call by the U.S. Navy at Kaohsiung, or any other suitable ports in Taiwan and permits U.S. Pacific Command to receive ports of call by Taiwan.” If carried out, this provision would represent a dramatic shift in U.S. Taiwan policy.
Despite last month’s U.S. Navy operation near Chinese-occupied Mischief Reef in the South China Sea, influential commentators have offered increasingly dire warnings about the failure of U.S. policy to prevent growing Chinese dominance in the region.