U.S. Lawmakers Push For Increased Involvement In The Indo-Pacific Region
WASHINGTON - U.S. lawmakers from both political parties have been coming out with a flurry of bills and resolutions aimed at expanding America's involvement in the Indo-Pacific region, including strengthening ties with nations in the region and increasing support for Taiwan.
The US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee passed the US annual defense policy bill, the National Defense Authorization Act for 2023. The bill, which was released by US Representative Adam Smith, was passed 57 to 1 after 16 hours of debate.
A resolution attached to the bill said that Washington must maintain capabilities 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 of Taiwan".
It also stated that the United States should continue a policy to "make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantities as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability,
GOP lawmakers have warned that if China is 'left unchecked' the United States will not be prepared to respond to its 'rapid expansion and militarization' in the Indo-Pacific region.
In a letter written to the Secretary of State Antony Blinken, representative Lance Gooden and his colleagues Nancy Mace, Ken Buck, Lisa McClain, and Louie Gohmert stated that if China is 'left unchecked' the United States and its allies "will be unprepared and unable to respond to China’s presence in the region. China’s rapid expansion and militarization of the Indo-Pacific region is a significant threat to the United States and our allies across the globe".
They also said that in the recent years "has used coercion and intimidation to demand policy changes, assert illegal maritime claims, and threaten countries that work with the United States or our allies".
"Beijing reaffirmed its intent to maintain high levels of defense spending to transform the People’s Liberation Army into a powerful force operating in and beyond the Indo-Pacific region".
"If left unchecked, the United States and our allies will be unprepared and unable to respond to China’s presence in the region," they wrote.
Gooden pointed out that the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been visiting various countries in the Indo-Pacific region over the last few weeks in order to "expand China's military presence in the region".
This includes the Solomon Islands which has now signed a security agreement with China that allows China to "send military personnel and Chinese warships to utilize their ports for ‘logistical replenishment".
"This agreement establishes a concerning precedent and could begin a domino effect destabilizing the entire region" Gooden stated.
He and his Republican colleagues urged Blinken to "undertake all necessary measures to strengthen existing and foster new relationships in the strategic Indo-Pacific region to counter China’s growing influence".
Gooden also referenced the treaty the United States has with the Republic of Kiribati that was signed in 1979 which prohibits Kiribati from "making facilities for military purposes available to third parties except with the agreement of the United States".
"Despite this treaty, the PRC has previously had a military operation under the guise of a space tracking station on Kiribati’s South Tarawa Island," the letter said. "Due to China’s growing influence in the region, there are concerns that this facility may reopen in direct violation of our agreement with the Republic of Kiribati" it added.
Furthermore, they urged the department to "reiterate to our regional partners that agreements with China will undermine our relationship and impact our ability to provide foreign and military aid in the region".
"Finally, we request you begin negotiations with the Republic of Kiribati regarding creating a military outpost on the island to aid with logistical replenishments of the Pacific Fleet and counter the expansion of China’s influence in the region" they stated in the letter.
They also asked for "strategic clarity by making it clear to our allies and the world that the United States will honor our commitments to our allies in the Indo-Pacific region and counter China’s aggression and expansion".
A State Department spokesperson told Fox News that they "appreciate(s) the bicameral and bipartisan support from Congress for deeper engagement in the Indo-Pacific" and said, "As we have said before, we must match action with our policies".
"The president has urged Congress to pass the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which would authorize over $3.25 billion in diplomatic and foreign assistance resources for the Indo-Pacific".
The State Department said that the Biden administration envisions an Indo-Pacific that is "open, connected, prosperous, resilient and secure — and we are ready to work together with each nation to achieve it".