Thu, Mar 10, 2005 - Page 1 News List

US up in arms over `anti-secession' law

ACTION, REACTION After some of the content of the controversial bill was revealed, the response of US officials ranged from `unhelpful' to `disconcerting'


A man hangs a banner with the text "Oppose China's unilateral enactment of the anti-seccession law" over the entrance to the Democratic Progressive Party's Kaohsiung headquarters yesterday.


The US lashed out at China's proposed "anti-secession" law Tuesday, with the White House calling on Beijing to rethink its plan to enact the law and the commander of the US Forces Pacific calling the law "disconcerting" in its potential impact on the security of the region.

The reaction came as the Bush administration got its first substantive glimpse of the law through a summary provided as an "explanation" delivered by National People's Congress official Wang Zhaoguo (王兆國) to the NPC session on Monday.

Washington's reaction took aim at the law's provision that would permit the State Council and the Central Military Commission to order Chinese troops to attack Taiwan if Beijing decides that future Taiwanese actions move too far toward the "fact" of independence.

The State Department said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would certainly bring up the anti-secession law with Chinese leaders if she visits Beijing, as is expected, next week.

Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters, however, that the issue did not come up when Rice spoke with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) on Monday.

And there has been no immediate reaction in Congress, as the leadership is discussing how to respond to the Chinese law.

In the White House' first reaction to the anti-secession law's summary, spokesman Scott McClellan said, "we view it as unhelpful and something that runs counter to recent trends toward a warming in cross-strait relations."

"We would call on Beijing to reconsider passage of the law," which allows "punitive measures directed at Taiwan," he said in his daily press conference.

Regarding the law's provision that "legalizes" a Chinese military attack on Taiwan, McClellan said, "we oppose any attempts to determine the future of Taiwan by anything other than peaceful means."

"We believe there ought to be cross-strait dialogue," McClellan said. "That is why I pointed out that this law that was drafted and presented runs counter to that."

In Congress, the House leadership and the International Relations Committee are deliberating their legislative strategy in response to the law.

"There are many Republicans who are upset by some of China's recent actions toward Taiwan," an aide to the House Republican leadership told the Taipei Times. "We are currently talking with the [International Relations] Committee to see what action we should take to send a clear message to China."

Ohio Republican Steve Chabot, a co-chairman of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, introduced a resolution last month urging the Bush administration to "strongly oppose" the law and register its "grave concern" with Beijing.

But the bill was not included in a list of measures the committee had scheduled to approve Wednesday, and the committee has not given the go-ahead for the Chabot measure to go straight to the House floor for a vote under a special speed-up process.

It was not immediately clear whether the House leadership could come up with a way to consider the bill or an equivalent quickly.

On the military side, Admiral William Fallon, the newly-installed commander of the US forces in the Pacific, expressed concern about the law during an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"It's disconcerting that this anti-secession law, as they call it, has been put forward, because I think it hardens the line, and it gives [China] apparently a legal basis of sorts for the potential for military action later on."

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