Sat, Aug 02, 2003 - Page 1 News List

White House also warns on China's military aims

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The White House has warned that China's speedy missile buildup aimed at Taiwan is "destabilizing" and has repeated its call for both sides to settle cross-Strait issues peacefully.

The comments, by White House spokesman Scott McClellan, came a day after the Pentagon's report on China's increased military threat.

"We've made it very clear that China's rapid build-up of weapons, particularly missiles opposite of Taiwan is something that is destabilizing, McClellan told reporters. "And we will fulfill our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act."

McClellan said the US has "always remained committed" to that law, and has "expressed concerns about the Chinese taking steps to increase their weaponry."

"But, again, the best way for the two sides to resolve their differences is through a peaceful dialogue. And we encourage the parties to pursue that dialogue," he said in response to a series of questions about the report, which was released Wednesday.

Developing credible military options for a Taiwan scenario remains the focus of China's military modernization, the report the Pentagon's latest annual report to Congress on China's military posture said. It also painted a picture of an increasingly sophisticated Chinese military, with Chinese defense spending expected to double in coming years.

The tough-worded report came as Washington is in delicate negotiations with Beijing over the North Korean nuclear threat, trying to get China to take a more active role in getting negotiations going, aimed at revolving the crisis.

That fact has prompted some Washington observers to wonder why the report was issued now, rather than being delayed until the situation was calmer as the Pentagon has done in the past.

In related news, the US and China are planning an exchange of top-level military visits later this year in what appears to be a near-return to normal bilateral military relations, but US officials say the visits will not affect US military commitments to Taiwan.

China's Minister of National Defense, General Cao Gangchuan (曹剛川), is slated to visit Washington in November, and the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard B. Myers, is planning to travel to Beijing soon after that, Pentagon officials say. In addition, the two sides are planning to conduct reciprocal ship visits to each other's naval bases.

The meetings, which were arranged "a couple of months ago," according to a US defense official, will be highest-level military talks of the George W. Bush presidency.

While planning for the trip is not yet firm, the two sides are expected to discuss "big picture" items. these will include "common security interests and concerns," the official said.

Taiwan is certain to come up during the meetings, but the visits could have an indirect benefit on US-Taiwan relations, a defense official told the Taipei Times.

"It will help the Chinese officers gain an appreciation and understand the seriousness of our commitment to help Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act" and America's demand for a peaceful settlement of cross-Strait issues, the official said.

"They will learn this face-to-face, and it may change some Chinese thinking" toward the Taiwan issue, he said.

The decision to upgrade US-China military ties does not reflect any change in US policy toward Taiwan, he said.

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