A new law that stands to dramatically expand United States arms sales to Taiwan, and rile Beijing, moved a step closer to reality this morning. Shortly before it was passed by the House of Representatives International Relations Committee, frantic last-minute lobbying by Clinton administration officials apparently succeeded in removing specific arms sales from amendments to the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act. Aides of members of the committee said they hoped the new bill would allow for a deepening of relations and was now more palatable to Democratic members. They insisted it was not a watering down. It is expected to be passed by the House of Representatives early next week. The process must then be repeated in the Senate. The proposal, introduced during rising Beijing-Taipei tensions in the spring, demanded the US provide ballistic missile defence for Taiwan as well as advanced air-to-air missiles, destroyers, planes and diesel submarines. All have been removed despite extensive back-room pressure from US weapons manufacturers eyeing billion dollar deals. However, the bill still seeks to upgrade military ties between Taiwan and the US - a relationship currently unofficial - and is expected to provoke anger from Beijing. It demands a hotline established between the Taiwanese and US militaries and extensive training of Taiwanese officers, as well as an urgent report on Taipei's military needs from the administration. Some Democratic members of the Republican-led committee remained fearful that it would imperil Sino-US relations and endanger Taiwan. 'This will do nothing for the people of Taiwan. The ambiguity in the relationship must remain,' said Congressman Tom Lantos. The State Department, Pentagon and White House have been shrill in their opposition and a fierce lobbying effort was launched. The proposal may face greater opposition in the Senate. The administration, backed by a string of senior academics and retired diplomats, fears the bill will shatter the aura of 'strategic ambiguity' in the Taiwan Relations Act that allows the US to pledge to defend the island without formal diplomatic recognition and remains a key plank in Sino-US relations. The issue has been complicated by statements from the bill's proponents, including House Majority Whip Tom DeLay and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms, that everything it proposes falls in with the Taiwan Relations Act. The controversy has bubbled across Washington all summer and shows little sign of abating. Peter Brookes, the House committee's principal adviser for East Asia, wrote in a commentary for Defence News: 'The consequences of not confronting China now might mean a far more assertive Beijing in the years to come.'