Sat, Jul 17, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Peace must be the bottom line

On Thursday, Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po daily reported that Jiang Zemin (江澤民), chairman of China's Central Military Commission said during a commission meeting that China's biggest security threat over the next 20 years will be the "Taiwan issue."

Jiang said that the first 20 years of the 21st century would be a period of strategic opportunity for China, but the Chinese government should not indefinitely put off a resolution to the "Taiwan issue," adding that Beijing will resolve the issue by force if "outside forces" support Taiwan's independence. The former president's remarks have been interpreted as a timetable for China's military offensive against this country. Will 2020 be Taiwan's hour of doom?

Beijing says that President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) planned constitutional referendum in December 2006 highlights the need to find a resolution to this issue in a timely fashion. Although the first 20 years of this century are regarded as a period of development for China, Beijing does not exclude the possibility of resolving the "Taiwan issue" during this critical period.

Jiang, who has tightly consolidated his power as military chief, was speaking to the hawks in China's military establishment when speaking about the "Taiwan issue." He was also speaking directly to Taiwan in an attempt to frighten it into accepting the "one China" principle; and to the US to test their limits.

But Jiang's position is hardly sufficient enough grounds to justify a military invasion of this country. It would convince neither the Chinese nor Taiwanese people of the "one China" principle, not to mention that the international community -- who would not sit back complacently and watch this brutal action unfold.

Despite tense cross-strait relations at the moment, the government has kept a rein on itself in the face of internal calls for independence, and has not crossed the line far enough to provoke China into military action. Chen even changed his campaign promise from making a new constitution to "promoting constitutional re-engineering and the re-establishment of the constitutional order" in his inaugural speech on May 20.

If China attacks Taiwan simply because it is unwilling to "be united," the one that crosses the "red line" will be China.

The bottom line for the US with regard to the cross-strait issue is clear: to maintain the status quo. The US will not allow the status quo to be defined unilaterally by either Beijing or Taipei. It will retain its own standard for interpretation, which is to say that it wants a continuation of a situation in where Taiwan does not declare independence and China does not use military force to bring the nation under its control.

Any change to this situation needs to be decided through cross-strait dialogue. But the Communist regime not only refuses to acknowledge Taiwan's offer to negotiate on technological or political issues, it also said it is eager to force Taiwan into submission through military intimidation. Taiwan's government finds this unacceptable and believes the US will also find this unacceptable.

As the US presidential campaign gets into full swing, China has used this sensitive time to threaten Taiwan militarily and diplomatically, going so far as to test long range ballistic missiles and conduct amphibious landing exercises, in addition to its usual barrage of rhetoric. With such constant mid-level alerts, neither Taiwan nor the international community can let down their guard.

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