The U.S. military must be able to deter China from taking over Taiwan by force, a provision in the compromise Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act stipulates.
In accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. must “maintain the ability of the United States Armed Forces to deny a fait accompli against Taiwan in order to deter the People’s Republic of China from using military force to unilaterally change the status quo with Taiwan,” according to the policy bill’s explanatory statement.
For decades, the U.S. has maintained a “strategic ambiguity” policy toward the island. But China’s military build-up in recent years has pushed lawmakers and U.S. military officials to voice concern over China’s push to reunify Taiwan with the mainland.
The text of the FY 2023 policy bill defines “fait accompli” as “the resort to force by the People’s Republic of China to invade and seize control of Taiwan before the United States can respond effectively.”
Navy officials in the last few years have called attention to China’s potential to take Taiwan by force. In an October meeting of the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th Party Congress, President Xi Jinping maintained China’s desire to reunify Taiwan and the mainland.
Following the CCP’s meeting in October, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China is moving on a quicker timeline to seize Taiwan.
“There has been a change in the approach from Beijing toward Taiwan in recent years. And instead of sticking with the status quo that was established in a positive way, a fundamental decision that the status quo was no longer acceptable and that Beijing was determined to pursue reunification on a much faster timeline,” Blinken said at the time. “And if peaceful means didn’t work, then it would employ coercive means – and possibly, if coercive means don’t work, maybe forceful means – to achieve its objectives. And that is what is profoundly disrupting the status quo and creating tremendous tensions.”
The FY 2023 policy bill, which the House passed last week and is awaiting action from the Senate, also calls for the U.S. Navy to invite the Taiwan Navy to the Rim of the Pacific 2024 exercise. Taiwan did not participate in RIMPAC 2022 this summer.
The NDAA also includes language calling on both the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State, in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, to help upgrade Taiwan’s military capabilities and its collaboration with the U.S. military.
That military modernization for Taiwan is meant to help the island stop China from performing “coercive or grey zone activities,” a blockade of Taiwan, and from “[securing] a lodgment on any islands administered by Taiwan and expand or otherwise use such lodgment to seize control of a population center or other key territory in Taiwan,” according to the legislative text.