Thu, Mar 29, 2007 - Page 1 News List

US official warns of PRC arms buildup

WORRYING The deputy secretary of state for East Asia told a committee that China's missile threat was real, but Taiwan could rely on its ally despite their recent differences

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The US State Department's chief specialist in Taiwan affairs says the US is "deeply concerned" over China's military actions that threaten Taiwan and has recommitted Washington defend Taiwan despite issues that have come between the two countries in recent years.

"Taiwan has no better friend than the United States," Thomas Christensen, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told a hearing on US-China relations by the Asian subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

The US "remains deeply concerned about the growing arsenal of missiles and other military systems arrayed against Taiwan, as well as Beijing's refusal to renounce the use of force against Taiwan," Christensen said in a prepared opening statement before the committee.

"We believe these circumstances constitute important factors for instability in cross-strait relations," he said. "We continue to urge China to reduce those threats and increase cross-strait dialogue, including direct talks with Taiwan's democratically elected leaders."

At the same time, Christensen reiterated Washington's so-called "one-China" policy, which, he said, has resulted in stability in cross-strait relations.

Regarding President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) recent "four wishes" speech, in which he called for Taiwan independence and constitutional change that would result in a change of the national title, Christensen noted that his department recently called the speech "unhelpful and inconsistent" with Chen's earlier "four noes" pledge during his 2000 inaugural address.

"We look to President Chen to fulfil the commitments to [US] President [George W.] Bush and to the international community" from the 2000 address, Christensen said in response to a question from subcommittee chairman, delegate Eni Faleomavega of American Samoa, a strong supporter of Taiwan.

"We look for him to abide by those commitments that he's made because we believe they're a source of stability in cross-strait relations," he said.

He called the four noes commitment "constructive" in maintaining cross-strait stability, and said the US "expects [future] Taiwan leaders to abide by them."

Christensen conceded that the US must "worry about" US interests "first and foremost," describing peace and stability in the strait as in the US' interest. However, he added that "there is no beneficiary greater to peace and stability in cross-strait relations than Taiwan itself."

That stability over time, which Christensen credited to the US' "one China" policy, has helped Taiwan develop its economy and democracy, and has improved its society and education "in a very impressive fashion," he said.

"The last several years has been the finest hour for that `one China' policy," he added.

He also reiterated the State Department position that the US does not support Taiwanese independence or changes to the status quo, saying a peaceful resolution should come with the consent of people on both sides of the strait.

Regarding China's military buildup across the Strait, Christensen said that the US takes that "extremely seriously."

"We will work to fulfill our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act by offering military items of a defensive nature to Taiwan and also by maintaining our own capabilities in the region, "under the Taiwan Relations Act," he said, warning Taiwanese leaders "not to play political football with Taiwan security" by rejecting the large arms package Bush offered in 2001, which is still held up in the Legislative Yuan.

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