A top Chinese military official warned the US that military and diplomatic relations with Beijing would suffer if Washington sold advanced weapons to Taiwan. The official also attacked the Taiwan Relations Act as a device used to interfere with China’s “domestic” affairs.
“As to how bad the impact [of US arms sales to Taiwan] will be, it would depend on the nature of the weapons sold to Taiwan,” People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde (陳炳德) said in Washington.
Sources close to the administration of US President Barack Obama said Beijing was mainly opposed to the sale of F-16C/D aircraft, which Taipei has repeatedly requested.
Obama is not expected to announce a decision on the sale of the fighters until later this year.
Sources said that one of Chen’s main missions in visiting the US this week was to emphasize the strength of China’s opposition to the arms sale.
Speaking at a joint press conference with US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, Chen said he had conducted “very frank, in-depth and fruitful discussions” with US leaders.
The US is extremely concerned about military-to-military relations with China and there are fears that without close ties it might be possible for small incidents to blow up into a crisis.
“China’s efforts to enhance our military capabilities are mainly targeted at ‘separatist’ forces as headed by [former presidents] Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who have attempted to split Taiwan away from China,” he said.
“Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory and people on Taiwan are our compatriots and blood brothers and sisters. We will use peaceful means to resolve the Taiwan question and achieve reunification,” he said.
Chen Bingde told the joint press conference at the Pentagon that US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had allegedly “confirmed” earlier in the day that under US policy there is only “one China” and that “Taiwan is part of China.”
“I asked a question. I said: ‘I’ve heard that comment, that statement, since I was a schoolboy and I’m hearing the same thing now I’m approaching retirement age. I wonder when can I really see the reunification of my motherland,’” he said.
He did not say how Clinton replied.
Chen Bingde said that one American friend suggested that China remove the missiles deployed along its southeast coast opposite Taiwan.
“I can tell you here, responsibly, that we only have garrison deployment across from Taiwan and we do not have operational deployment, much less missiles, stationed there,” he said. “To be sure, we did make necessary military preparations to prevent ‘separatist’ forces headed by Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, who attempted to split Taiwan from Chinese territory.”
Chen Bingde was asked what would happen to US-China military-to-military relations if Washington sold F-16C/Ds to Taiwan.
“Taiwan is part of Chinese territory; that is known to all. Since it is part of China, why will it need the United States weapons sales to guarantee its security?” he said. “So, the Taiwan Relations Act is legislation that interferes with China’s domestic affairs. To apply a domestic law, an issue which is another country’s internal affair, how should I describe this? I think maybe I can use the word ‘hegemonic.’”
“Decades have passed and the cross-strait situation has gone through fundamental changes. Any effort to try to contain China’s development using Taiwan would be futile,” he said. “Since I arrived in the United States, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some members of the Congress and some of them told me that they also think it is time for the United States to review this legislation.”