Wed, Jun 16, 2004 - Page 1 News List

US group suggests `one China' rethink

SECOND LOOK The US-China Economic and Security Commission says Beijing's military buildup means the longstanding policy needs to be reconsidered

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

A blue-ribbon US government panel has recommended that Washington reconsider its "one China" policy and other fundamental US policies toward Taiwan.

The recommendation is the most dramatic of a series of suggestions made by the high-powered US-China Economic and Security Commission, a group set up by Congress in 2000 to assess US policies on US-China relations.

"Recent developments across the Strait are putting increasing stress on the United States' `one China' policy, demonstrating the need for a new assessment of [that] policy that takes into consideration current realities," said the report, released yesterday morning in Washington.

"Congress and the administration should conduct a fresh assessment of the `one China' policy, given the changing realities in China and Taiwan, including the policy's successes, failures and continued viability," the report said.

It also called for a reassessment of "whether changes may be needed in the way the United States government coordinates its defense assistance to Taiwan; and how US policy can better support Taiwan's breaking out of the international economic isolation that the PRC seeks to impose on it."

The recommendations, if accepted by the Bush administration and the administration that wins the November presidential election, could represent the most dramatic change in US cross-strait policy since the administration of Jimmy Carter recognized Beijing diplomatically in 1978.

The recommendation fits with a low-key, but ardent, effort by conservative thinkers in Washington to change the "one China" policy, an effort that many conservatives feel goes as high as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who has hinted at his preference for a change in recent years.

The commission was created as part of a defense spending bill four years ago. Its earlier findings and recommendations have been given weight in Washington because of the expertise of its members and the bipartisan nature of its suggestions.

On cross-strait relations, the commission said recent actions by China warrant a re-examination of policy.

"China's recent actions toward Taiwan and Hong Kong call into question its commitments to a peaceful approach toward Taiwan and to preserving Hong Kong's autonomy and self-government. These developments merit a fresh look at US policies in these areas by the Congress and the executive branch," the report says.

At the same time, the commission urges measures to bring about a resumption of cross-strait dialogue to avoid armed conflict between China and Taiwan.

"Congress should consult with the administration on developing appropriate ways for the United States to facilitate actively cross-strait dialogue that could promote the long-term, peaceful resolution of differences between the two sides and could lead to direct trade and transport links and/or other cross-strait confidence-building measures," the report says.

It urges the administration to report to Congress on the status of such talks, the obstacles to them and US efforts to promote dialogue.

Echoing a recent report by the Pentagon on China's military situation, the commission pointed out Beijing's increasing military threat to Taiwan.

"China's quantitative and qualitative military advancements have resulted in a dramatic shift in the cross-strait military balance toward China, with serious implications for Taiwan, for the United States, and for cross-strait relations," the commission report says.

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