Tue, Mar 12, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Keep the nuclear umbrella furled

A secret Pentagon policy review for the US Congress that was leaked over the weekend outlines nuclear warfare contingency plans against countries that threaten the US with weapons of mass destruction. The seven potential targets identified in the report are Iran, Iraq, Russia, China, North Korea, Libya and Syria. News stories about the nuclear review have stirred up worldwide controversy, especially in the above-mentioned countries.

The review itself should come as no surprise, given that the US, owner of the world's largest conventional and nuclear weapons arsenals, frequently reviews its contingency plans for weapons use. The US has also stressed that it would not use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear nation unless the latter teams up with a nuclear-armed country in attacks against the US or its allies.

Both Russia and China are allies in the Washing-ton's war on terror, but their nuclear stockpiles rival those of the US. The two countries are also the biggest exporters of nuclear weapons. In aiming their nuclear weapons at the US, their strategic thinking is exactly the same as that of the US. Such a balance of terror is in fact the foundation for global nuclear security.

Since Sept. 11, the security of the US and many other nations has come under the increasing threat of terrorist organizations and state-sponsored terrorism. Washington's preparations for a worst-case scenario is simply a rational response. North Korea, Iran and Iraq are part of the "axis of evil" in the eyes of the US, while Libya and Syria are major sponsors of international terrorism. Some of the seven countries already possess nuclear weapons, while others are in the process of developing them. They all pose a potential threat to regional and global security.

If Beijing's leaders are feeling the heat of a US nuclear threat, they should remember that it is exactly how the 23 million people of Taiwan feel living in the crosshairs of more than 300 Chinese missiles every day. The Chinese authorities keep harping on about peaceful unification, but all along they have refused to renounce the use of military force against Taiwan. Instead, China is stepping up development of short-range and medium-range ballistic-missile systems and speeding up the deployment of missiles aimed at Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia. The Chinese authorities have no grounds for complaint about getting a taste of their own medicine.

Taiwan has long possessed the capacity to develop nuclear weapons. The fact that it has not made that leap is because of both government policy and US dissuasion. In the 1970s, then president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) declared that Taiwan would neither develop nor use any nuclear weapons against the Chinese. If Taiwan can exercise such "I am not doing it, but not because I can't" restraint, there is no reason China couldn't follow a similar path.

Taiwan should propose making the Taiwan Strait a non-nuclear zone and, through Taiwan-US-China trilateral talks, encourage Beijing to renounce its nuclear threat against Taiwan as a prelude to renouncing all military solutions to the cross-strait issue. A promise from Beijing to make the Strait a non-

nuclear zone would not only ease US concerns about a China threat, but would also be a major gesture of goodwill toward the people of Taiwan. It would be a win-win situation for Taiwan, China and the US.

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