Sat, Sep 07, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Vice minister of defense to visit US

BREAKTHROUGH The visit is the first time a top-level Taiwanese defense official has been allowed to make a direct trip to Washington since the US severed ties with Taiwan

AFP , WASHINGTON AND BEIJING

Vice Minister of Defense Kang Ning-hsiang (康寧祥) will travel to the US capital this week for talks with his counterparts at the US Department of Defense and other meetings, Pentagon officials announced late Thursday.

The visit will mark the first time such a top-level Taiwanese defense official has been allowed to make a direct trip to Washington since the late 1970s, when the US severed relations with Taiwan after recognizing China.

Last March, Defense Minister Tang Yiau-ming (湯曜明) attended a meeting the US-Taiwan Business Council, prompting loud protests from Beijing. But that gathering took place in Florida, where Tang had what was described as "private discussions."

Kang will arrive in Washington today and stay through Sept. 12, when he will fly to Hawaii, home of the US Pacific Command, the officials said on condition of anonymity, refusing to disclose the envoy's exact itinerary.

He will remain in Hawaii though Sept. 14.

The Pentagon refused to disclose who in the department will meet with Kang, but reports have speculated that he will be received here by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

"We meet from time to time with Taiwan representatives, including representatives of the ministry of defense," one of the officials said.

Kang, who was appointed to his post early this year, does not have a military background and is seen as a possible future candidate for the department's top job.

But he is known as an expert in military matters, who has close contacts with the Taiwanese brass.

The Taipei Times reported last June that the purpose of Kang's then-proposed US trip was "to establish a project management system for the weaponry that the US had agreed to sell to Taiwan."

Wish list

* US Department of Defense notified the US Congress Wednesday that Taiwan was seeking to buy dozens of amphibious assault vehicles, air to air missiles, air to ground missiles and Super Cobra helicopters.

* The US is also considering delivering 120 AIM-120 missiles to Taiwan.

* The missiles have been purchased by Taipei but they cannot be released until there is evidence that China has similar missiles.


The US Department of Defense declined any comment. But it notified Congress Wednesday that Taiwan was seeking to buy from the US dozens of amphibious assault vehicles, 182 AIM-9M-1/2 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and 449 AGM-114M3 Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles for its AH-1W Super Cobra and OH-58D helicopters.

The US is also considering delivering to Taiwan 120 AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), which have earned high praise from US pilots after the conflicts in Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo.

The missiles have been purchased by Taipei, but US policy requires that they not be released unless there is evidence that China has similar missiles as part of its operational inventory.

A Pentagon report on China's military power, made public in July, concluded that one of the goals of the country's efforts to modernize its armed forces is to make possible a forcible unification with Taiwan.

"Preparing for a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait is the primary driver for China's military modernization," the report said.

In response to the Pentagon's announcement, China yesterday warned the US against allowing Kang to visit.

"If the United States allows Kang Ning-hsiang to visit ... it will be a gross interference in China's internal affairs," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan (孔泉) said, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Kong said that a visit by Kang would send "the wrong kind of signal" to those in Taiwan seeking formal independence from China.

"We have consistently opposed any exchanges between the United States and Taiwan of an official nature and have made solemn representations to the United States over the report [of Kang's planned visit]," Kong said.

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