After unanimously passing an act to sanction those undermining Hong Kong’s liberty and freedoms earlier this month, the US Congress on Wednesday enacted another bill on the diplomatic allies of Taiwan.

The legislation titled Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act of 2019, or TAIPEI Act 2019, was passed by the US Senate and if signed into law by President Donald Trump, it will authorize the US State Department to reduce pecuniary aid and diplomatic engagement with those nations that decide to embrace Beijing and ditch the self-ruled island.

If the act becomes law, the dwindling number of Taiwan’s allies will need to do some calculations and a comparison – the economic carrot and investment dangled by Beijing to woo them versus the financial and economic aid from Taiwan and the US that would be lost – and then decide if severing ties is worth it.

The act, initiated by US Senator Cory Gardner, was passed after a failed attempt last year to help Taiwan keep its remaining 15 diplomatic allies and support its international presence.

US Senator Cory Gardner tabled the TAIPEI act, after a failed attempt last year. Photo: AFP

It requires the State Department to consider “reducing its economic, security and diplomatic engagements with nations that take serious or significant actions to undermine Taiwan” and help the island seen by Beijing as its renegade province gain participation in international bodies, either as a member or an observer.

It is also reported that the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee would review its own version of the act, and once it passes the floor, a committee made up of both legislative bodies would work out the differences between the two versions to come up with a holistic version before returning the bill to both bodies for approval.

Still, the irony is that it was Washington whose decision 40 years ago to pull diplomats out of Taiwan and establish an embassy in Beijing amid the latter’s overtures that led to the island’s “diplomatic avalanche” as other western powers followed suit.

Washington does not have diplomatic ties with some of Taiwan’s allies, most of which are island nations in the South Pacific and the Caribbean. But Taiwanese papers reported on Wednesday that the nominee to become the next US ambassador to the Marshall Islands had pledged to do her best to help Taiwan keep the Pacific ally.

Speaking at her nomination hearing before the Senate, Roxanne Cabral said that the Marshall Islands “plays an important role in maintaining Taiwan’s international presence,” and that would mean “pushing back against the predatory economic practices of China.”

She told the hearing that transparency should be increased and “bad deals” exposed, while it would also be vital [for the US and Taiwan] to provide better alternatives and maintain a strong presence in the region.

The career diplomat also served in the US consulate in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. She most recently served as a deputy chief of mission and charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Panama, which cut ties with Taiwan in June 2017 and instead opened a consulate in Hong Kong earlier this year.

Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine and the nation’s parliament expressed their support for Taiwan after the island lost two Pacific allies in September, and Heine visited Taipei last week and witnessed the signing of two bilateral agreements.

Taiwan’s National Security Council has warned that the nation could lose more before January’s presidential and legislative elections.

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