Thu, Jun 10, 2010 - Page 1 News List

PLA admiral’s speech raises questions in the US

By William Lowther  /  STAFF REPORTER , WASHINGTON

A senior Chinese admiral delivered a three-minute “rant” to 65 visiting US officials in Beijing last month, in which he said that US arms sales to Taiwan proved that Washington viewed China as an enemy.

Since then, US diplomats and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have tried to portray the remarks by Rear Admiral Guan Youfei (關友飛) as at odds with the thinking of the rest of the Chinese government.

But in a Washington Post report published on Tuesday, Post reporter John Pomfret interviewed a wide range of experts, officials and military officers in China who indicated that Guan’s speech on May 24 as part of a two-day US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue represented the mainstream views of the Chinese Communist Party.

It was the first time that this had been reported in the US.

“Perhaps the real outliers might be those in China’s government who want to side with the United States,” the Post said.

“Guan’s speech underscored that 31 years after the United States and China normalized relations, there remains a deep distrust in Beijing. That the United States is trying to keep China down is a central part of the party’s catechism and a foundation of its claims to legitimacy,” the paper said.

Despite intense efforts, Gates was unable to secure an invitation to visit Beijing when he was in Asia last week and blamed elements within the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for blocking an invitation, which the civilian leadership wanted to deliver.

But a PLA general who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Post: “It’s silly to talk about factions when it comes to relations with the United States. The army follows the party. Do you really think that Guan did this unilaterally?”

Repeating Guan’s words, Major General Zhu Chenghu (朱成虎) told Gates: “You, the Americans, are taking China as the enemy.”

Zhu rose to prominence in China in 2005 after he warned that if the US came to Taiwan’s defense in a war with China, Beijing would abandon its “no first use” doctrine on nuclear weapons and attack the US, the Post said.

China was conducting a “concerted campaign” to change the US’ security relationship with Taiwan, the paper said.

“At the very least, Chinese officials said, they want the Obama administration to reiterate a commitment it made in a joint communique with China in 1982 to decrease arms sales to Taiwan,” the paper said.

Chinese analysts warned that US President Barack Obama would ignore “core national interests” — especially on US weapons sales to Taiwan — at his “peril,” the newspaper said.

It quoted Cui Liru (崔立如), head of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, as saying: “For years China has opposed arms sales to Taiwan among other things, but we were never strong enough to do anything about it.

“But our national strength has grown. And it is time that the United States pay attention. It is something that must be dealt with or it will seriously damage ties,” Cui said.

This comes as Republican and conservative elements in Washington are pushing the White House to sell F-16C/D aircraft to Taipei.

The Wall Street Journal praised Gates in an editorial on Tuesday for talking frankly about how China’s military expansion threatens peace and security.

At the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Gates said there was growing concern about China’s behavior in the South China Sea and that the Pentagon objected to any effort to intimidate US corporations or “those of any nation engaged in legitimate economic activity.”

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