Obama signs legislation backing military exchanges with Taiwan

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2017, which included for the first time a section on senior military exchanges with Taiwan.

The bill cleared the Senate in a 92-7 vote on Dec. 8 after its approval in the House of Representatives by a vote of 375-34 on Dec. 2.

Section 1284 of the act states: "It is the sense of Congress that the Secretary of Defense should conduct a program of senior military exchanges between the United States and Taiwan that have the objective of improving military-to-military relations and defense cooperation between the United States and Taiwan."

Such a "sense of Congress" is not legally binding itself even though the language is included in an otherwise legally effective legislation. It reflects the view of many on Capitol Hill who think the current level of U.S. military exchanges with Taiwan has been insufficient.

It remains to be seen whether or how the new administration under President Donald Trump will act on this section of the act.

If implemented, the senior military exchange program should be conducted at least once each calendar year in both the United States and Taiwan, according to the act.

It defines "senior military exchange" as meaning "an activity, exercise, professional education event, or observation opportunity in which senior military officers and senior defense officials participate."

It also said the term "senior military officer' means a general or flag officer on active duty in the armed forces, while "senior defense official," with respect to the Department of Defense, means a civilian official at the level of Assistant Secretary of Defense or above.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel