Hu warns US on handling of Taiwan, Tibet

‘CORE INTERESTS’::The Chinese president said that the two issues must be handled well or relations between the two countries might face constant trouble or tension

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in WASHINGTON

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 - Page 1

Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) left Washington on Thursday with a warning that relations between the US and China would face “constant trouble or even tension” if issues involving Taiwan and Tibet were not handled well.

“Taiwan and Tibet related issues concern China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and they represent China’s core interests,” he said. “They touch upon the national sentiments of the 1.3 billion Chinese. We hope that the US will honor its commitments and work with us to preserve the hard-won progress of our relations.”

Hu’s remarks were made during a speech to US business leaders shortly before he flew out of the US capital to spend a day in Chicago prior to returning home.

While Hu’s three-day state visit has resulted in no significant policy changes or concessions from either side, US diplomats believe that China achieved its major goals, which involved boosting its international image and prestige.

Nevertheless, groups of Taiwanese, Tibetan and Uighur protesters shadowed Hu and his delegation as they moved around Washington, waving banners reading “China Hands Off Taiwan” and “China Out of Tibet.”

Bob Yang (楊英育), president of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, told the Washington Post: “There is a strong alliance now of people oppressed by China which is putting pressure on the US to change its foreign policy.”

Talks between Hu and US President Barack Obama on Taiwan took place behind the closed doors of the Oval Office and there are still few hints of just what was said.

Clearly referring to Taiwan and Tibet, Hu said in his speech that if US-China relations were to thrive, both sides needed to treat each other with respect and as equals “and handle major sensitive issues in a proper manner.”

“A review of the history of our relations tells us that China-US relations will enjoy smooth and steady growth when the two countries handle well issues involving each other’s major interests. Otherwise our relations will face a constant trouble or even tension,” Hu added.

The Chinese president said that relations should be viewed from the strategic and long-term perspective and should not be affected by any one incident.

“China stands for peaceful settlement of international disputes on hot-spot issues and follows a national defense policy that is defensive in nature,” he said. “We do not engage in arms races or pose a military threat to any country. China will never seek hegemony or pursue an expansionist policy.”

Earlier, Hu had visited Congress where he met -Democratic and Republican leaders from the House of Representatives and Senate.

Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, personally handed Hu the copy of a letter she had sent to Obama.

It said in part: “As you know, the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 (TRA) specifies that it is US policy to consider any non-peaceful means to determine Taiwan’s future a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States. Over those past three decades a steady course has been adopted by both Republican and Democratic Administrations to maintain the security in the Taiwan Strait through both defensive arms sales and regular consultations. The six assurances offered by [former US] President [Ronald] Reagan to Taiwan in 1982 further clarified the commitment the United States has made to Taiwan’s security.”

“Despite recent overtures in cross-Strait relations, Beijing continues to modernize its military and expand its arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan in ways that raise serious questions about the sincerity of China’s charm offensive,” the letter added. “In this context, the Congress continues to view the judicious sale of defensive weapons systems, such as advanced fighter aircraft, as an essential element of United States support for a secure, stable and democratic Taiwan, as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” it said.

China strongly opposes all arms sales to Taiwan, but has let it be known in Washington that it is particularly against Taiwan’s request to buy 66 new advanced F-16 fighters.

Congressional sources said that the letter handed to Hu by Ros-Lehtinen was meant to demonstrate that despite Chinese objections, there remains considerable support for the F-16 sale on Capitol Hill.