Fri, Dec 20, 2002 - Page 1 News List

US likely to snub China's missile offer

NO DEAL Jiang Zemin's offer to reduce its missile threat to Taiwan in return for a reduction in US arms has not met with any interest in Washington

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The US will not accept Chinese President Jiang Zemin's (江澤民) offer to reduce China's missile buildup against Taiwan in exchange for a reduction in US arms sales to Taiwan, a senior George W. Bush administration official has said.

If there is any such deal, it is up to Beijing and Taipei to work it out on their own, said the official , talking to a small group of reporters on the basis of anonymity at an impromptu press briefing in Washington on Wednesday.

The official was believed to be the first high-level member of the Bush administration to confirm that Jiang made the offer with serious intentions during his meeting with President Bush at Bush's ranch near Crawford, Texas on Oct. 25.

The offer was first revealed by the head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, Chen Chien-jen (程建人), to the Legislative Yuan last month, during his visit to Taipei. At the time, Chen told legislators that a US official told him the administration would not accept the proposal.

He told the lawmakers that Washington would not lower its military alert status in Taiwan, since China has long-range, mid-range and other short-range missiles that could be deployed if China reduced the estimated 400 missiles it has deployed near its coast opposite Taiwan.

While US officials since then have indicated that Jiang made such a missiles-for-arms-sales gesture, they stressed that they viewed it as a casual offer, not a serious proposal.

But the senior official who spoke to reporters on Wednesday confirmed that the Bush administration recognized the offer as a serious one and noted that China has been making such proposals for some time before the Crawford summit in meetings with US officials.

But the official appeared to suggest that Washington had washed its hands of the issue.

He said that since the Jiang offer involved military buildups between China and Taiwan, it would be up to Taipei and Beijing to negotiate and resolve the issue.

That comment would seem aimed at fears that the US might be willing to strike a deal with China on the cross-strait military situation as a way to assure China's continued support for the US-led war on terrorism.

The US official said that any missiles-for-arms-sales deal would violate the so-called "six assurances" issued to Taiwan by President Ronald Reagan in 1982 when he signed a US-China communique that pledged Washington to reduce arms sales to Taiwan.

Those assurance said that Washington would not set a deadline for stopping arms sales or discuss arms sales with China. They also pledge that Washington would not revise the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act that underlies US-Taiwan relations, force Taiwan to negotiate with China, or act as a go-between in relations between both sides of the Strait.

The Jiang proposal came on the eve of an intensification of US-China interaction which has raised bilateral relations to their highest level since the Bush administration took office.

Last week, the two sides held their first high-level military consultations during the Bush presidency, with the deputy chief of the Chinese general staff, General Xiong Guangkai (熊光楷), coming to Washington.

This week, the first human rights dialogue in years took place in Beijing and US Pacific forces commander Admiral Thomas Fargo traveled to China, the highest level such visit since the Bush election.

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