The U.S. Congress on Thursday passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2017, which included for the first time a section on senior military exchanges with Taiwan.
The Senate voted 92-7 to pass the bill Thursday, after it was voted through the House of Representatives 375-34 on Dec. 2.
Section 1284 of the final version passed after coordination between the House and the Senate 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 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.
The bill will now be turned over to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it into law before he leaves the office Jan. 20.
The thing to watch will be how the new President Donald Trump and his defense officials will implement the sense of the Congress.
Although the U.S. Congress has tried to include similar provisions in the annual budget bill over the past few years, they were dropped from the final version of the bill after the executive branch stepped in, out of concerns that the move would damage U.S.-China relations.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel