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US Senate panel votes for docking warships in Taiwan


Taiwan has welcomed a proposal by a United States Senate panel to allow American warships to call at Taiwan's ports.

If approved by US lawmakers, the decision could backtrack on Washington's commitment to the "one China" policy and most likely anger China.

Observers said the move is a "morale booster" for Taiwan, after it suffered a diplomatic setback when Panama cut official ties and switched its allegiance to China two weeks ago.

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday voted to allow regular stops by US naval vessels as part of an annual defence-policy measure, signalling a major change in US policy towards Taiwan, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

In a bipartisan 21-6 vote, the panel approved re-establishing "regular ports of call by the US Navy at Kaohsiung or any other suitable ports in Taiwan and permits US Pacific Command to receive ports of call by Taiwan", the newspaper said.

The new policy also directs the Defence Department to help Taiwan develop its "indigenous undersea-warfare capabilities, including vehicles and sea mines".

It is, however, unclear how the White House views the Senate committee's decision, which will have to be ratified by the US Congress.

When contacted, Taiwan's Ministry of Defence spokesman said it is optimistic and welcomes the "emphasis on the importance of military exchanges between Taiwan and the US, which will favour the peace and national security of Taiwan".

If given the green light, the new policy breaks with a long practice when US cut formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979 and recognised Beijing as the government of "one China", while keeping friendly non-official ties with Taipei.

China's foreign and defence ministries yesterday slammed the proposal, saying it "concerns China's sovereignty and territorial integrity".

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