Wed, Jan 05, 2005 - Page 1 News List

US, China to discuss `anti-secession' bill

CRITICAL TIME The US has declined to comment on Chinese legislation which might mandate military action against Taiwan, preferring to speak to envoys first

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The US and China will hold their first high-level discussions on Beijing's proposed "anti-secession" law this week during a three-day visit to Washington by the director of Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office, Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), which comes at a critical time in US-Taiwan-China relations.

The State Department confirmed on Monday that Chen was to arrive yesterday for talks with US officials on a number of cross-strait issues. He is also expected to meet members of Congress.

Included will be a meeting tomorrow with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in which the "anti-secession" law is expected to be a main topic of conversation.

That meeting will be the first since the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC) last week decided to endorse a draft "anti-secession" law and send it to the NPC's plenary session in March.

The law, the text of which has not been released, is believed to mandate military action against Taiwan if Taipei moves toward independence in a manner unacceptable to the Beijing leadership.

The US has so far declined substantive comment on the law, claiming that it cannot do so without seeing the text first.

Chen's visit to Washington comes at a tense moment in US-Taiwan relations, sparked by a number of recent statements by top State Department officials which have been interpreted as signaling a perceptible anti-Taiwan shift in Bush-administration policy.

Confirming the Chen-Armitage meeting, the State Department called on both sides to begin a dialogue and not "complicate" the situation.

"The US' long-standing position is that both the People's Republic of China and Taiwan should engage in dialogue to peacefully resolve their differences, and not do anything that unilaterally changes the status quo or complicates the management of this sensitive issue," the department said.

Armitage deeply upset Taiwan's supporters in Washington and Taiwanese officials last month with statements he made during an interview on the PBS network in the US.

Asked about US policy toward Taiwan, Armitage said that the US was not obligated to defend Taiwan in case of Chinese military attack.

He also stated flatly that, "we all agree that there is but one China, and Taiwan is part of China."

That statement was met with fury by Taiwan's supporters in Washington, who pointed out that this stance has never been US policy. Instead, they said that US statements in the three communiques with China forming the basis of US-China relations did not support Armitage's interpretation.

In the communiques the US "acknowledges" the Chinese position that Taiwan is part of China, but does not commit the US to agreeing with this position.

Armitage's statement drew special attention in view of an earlier statement by Secretary of State Colin Powell during a trip to Beijing, in which he spoke of a US policy favoring "reunification."

Powell later said he misspoke and meant to say "resolution." But that failed to quell the furor in Taipei that his original statement generated.

More recently, Powell expressed no "immediate" concern over China's latest defense white paper, which declared that the aim of China's military modernization was to crush Taiwan's attempts to become independent.

Meanwhile, the main Taiwanese congressional lobby group in Washington, the Formosa Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), on Monday urged Congress to "take some concrete action" to condemn the "anti-secession" law.

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