Wed, May 21, 2003 - Page 4 News List

US may bargain with Chinese on missile reduction

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The US White House has begun preparing a serious response to an offer last year by former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) to cut China's missile buildup against Taiwan in exchange for a reduction in US arms sales to Taiwan, a leading American academic on China's military says.

It is not clear whether a response has been delivered or whether the administration is still working on it, said David Shambaugh, the director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University, who revealed the action during a day-long seminar on Taiwan at the university in Washington on Monday.

The offer, made during the summit meeting between Jiang and US President George W. Bush at Bush's Texas ranch last October, has never been officially confirmed by the US or China, but was leaked by Taiwan's senior representative to Washington, Chen Chien-jen (程建人), in a report to the Legislative Yuan last November. US officials later confirmed the offer.

According to Chen and Shambaugh, Jiang offered to freeze China's deployment of short-range ballistic missiles facing Taiwan in exchange for some sort of arms-sales restrictions by Washington.

While the Bush administration originally dismissed the offer out of hand, the issue has gained new life, according to Shambaugh.

It is believed that about eight weeks ago, Bush ordered the National Security Council to consider the offer as a serious one, and to prepare an official response.

That would be about the time that the Bush administration was counting down to the onset of its invasion of Iraq, and the time when the SARS epidemic was beginning to gain worldwide attention.

While China opposed Bush's invasion of Iraq in the UN in principle, Washington counted on China's support or passive opposition to mount the invasion.

The US Department of State, which earlier dismissed Jiang's October offer as not worth considering, had no comment on Shambaugh's remarks.

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