Sun, Dec 01, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Beijing's offer exposes real threat

By the Liberty Times editorial

Taiwan's representative to the US Chen Chien-jen (程建人) said recently that while China's policy toward the US has been increasingly flexible and soft, its basic policy toward Taiwan remains unchanged.

He also said that during the recent meeting between US President George W. Bush and Chinese President Jiang Zemin (江澤民), Jiang took the initiative in proposing that China withdraw missiles deployed along its southeast coast in exchange for a US reduction in arms sales to Taiwan.

Reportedly, the two leaders did not pursue the issue any further. Bush is said to have told Jiang, "You [Chinese] are not naive, and neither are they [Taiwan.]" Jiang had quite evidently been indulging in wishful thinking.

The exchange at least proves, however, that China has indeed deployed a large number of missiles along its coast, aimed at Taiwan. Pentagon reports had said that this was the case. Now we know from the mouth of the Chinese leader himself that the missile threat is genuine.

One recalls that when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) asked China to withdraw the missiles, Chinese officials pretended that they knew nothing of them. Foreign Minister Qian Qichen (錢其琛) also forwarded a claim through Taiwan's pro-unification media that China's national defense deployments were carried out in accordance with the needs of the country. It was not a matter for discussion, he said. His words suggest that Jiang's proposition to Bush was entirely misleading.

China has more than 400 missiles aimed at Taiwan, and the number increases by 50 each year. This is well-known in the international community. Recently, various parliaments including the European Parliament have passed resolutions, demanding that China withdraw these missiles. The US has also long indicated that it will not take China's military threats to Taiwan, including the missile threat, lying down.

So while China's missiles threaten Taiwan, China must weather strong condemnation from the international community. As a result, the question of how to alleviate pressure from the international community on the one hand -- and on the other hand still maintain the threat -- has become an important issue for China. Jiang probably made the proposal to Bush to avoid being put on the spot again and for propaganda purposes.

Actually, before the summit meeting between the two, pro-China experts in the US had openly suggested that Jiang would use the opportunity to announce the withdrawal of missiles targeting Taiwan in exchange for a freeze on US arm sales to Taiwan.

As anyone can tell, if that deal had come off, China would have emerged a big winner.

Why?

Obviously, the military threat that China poses to Taiwan consists of much more than just the 400 or so missiles. China has been speeding up the modernization of its naval and air offensive capabilities.

Some Americans have frankly pointed out that the arms sales to Taiwan are being made in consideration of the collective threats faced by Taiwan, not just the missiles. In addition, arm sales to Taiwan are mandated by the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). The issue cannot be simplified into a formula of "fewer arms sales for fewer missiles."

All else aside, withdrawal of the missiles won't eliminate the military threat posed to Taiwan. After all, once the missiles had been removed, China could move them back again at any time.

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