Thu, Mar 15, 2001 - Page 8 News List

China must help regional peace

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎

Washington's visitors from Beijing this month are laying down markers on the whole gamut of issues connected with cross-strait relations: the "one China" principle, of course; the inadequacy of the "small three links" (小三通); the impossibility of international participation for Taiwan; and trust (boycotting contact with the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) government).

Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen (錢其琛) will doubtless address all these subjects on his trip to Washington later this month. Apparently the strategy is to show the new US administration that the PRC position on these subjects will not change. The strategy is quite a gamble, trying to publicly pressure a new president who needs the evenly divided Congress to strengthen his hold on power, and to establish a feeling of success and competence in the first 100 days of his administration.

Beijing's most urgent purpose for sending emissaries and making public statements are the forthcoming decisions on US arms sales to Taiwan and in particular the decision on AEGIS destroyers, which it hopes to block. The issue is getting considerable public attention at this time and Beijing (and many China experts in the US) has tried to make it a bellwether for the new administration's policy toward the PRC.

Just in the last week alone, there have been significant public discussions on this subject. Two well-known and respected China experts from two different think tanks included the subject in their separate analyses. Two members of Congress spoke of it in speeches to two other think tanks and Washington was being visited by an important policy official from Beijing who clearly wanted to talk about arms sales as well as other issues.

In an analysis done for the Asia-Pacific Forum Newsletter, Allen Romberg of the Stimson Center, laid out a very balanced description of the present state of cross-strait relations. He made several good points, including some on the arms sales issue. He thought Beijing's refusal to establish dialogue with the Chen government increased the pressure on Bush to do something for Taiwan. I agree. But he also thought the US should put off for the time being decisions on the more sensitive arms -- as defined by the PRC -- to see whether the recent more moderate words on both sides might lead to some progress.

In a Brookings Institute Policy Brief, Kenneth Lieberthal, whose paper was about the broader subject of "US Policy Toward China," also included his views on cross-strait issues and arms sales. He seems to accept the PRC position that the AEGIS destroyer systems, because "they are natural stepping stones to anti-missile defenses that are organically linked to US systems ... reconstitute" the US-Taiwan Defense Treaty. He calls for an agreement between the two sides of the Strait (no further increase -- not withdrawal -- of missiles facing Taiwan in ex-change for no additions to Taiwan's anti-missile capability). Then he suggests that no sale of "controversial" systems to Taiwan should be made this year while an agreement is explored.

We also heard speeches by two very influential members of Congress, one a Republican member of the House, one a Democrat member of the Senate, with quite a different perspective on the arms sales issue. Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Henry Hyde, thought sales of arms to Taiwan that had been withheld would be made this year. Importantly, he considered these necessary responses to the PRC's deployment of missiles opposite Taiwan.

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