A senior Bush administration official on Wednesday registered Washington's opposition to Taiwan's development of offensive missiles that could hit Chinese targets, but again urged the Legislative Yuan to approve a defense budget including the weapons systems offered by US President George W. Bush when he took office in 2001.
Senior director for East Asian affairs at the National Security Council Dennis Wilder said that any offensive capability on either side of the Taiwan Strait is "destabilizing and therefore not in the interest of peace and security."
Wilder made the comments in answer to a question about the Ministry of Defense's announcement last week that it had simulated a battle using short-range and cruise missiles that could hit military targets inside China. While the ministry described the missiles, which are still in the conceptual stage, as defensive, some observers consider them offensive weapons systems.
The issue came up at a press briefing on this week's summit between Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington, which will include a discussion about Taiwan.
"When you ask me whether I'm for offensive missiles, I'm not for offensive missiles on the Chinese side of the Strait, and not for offensive missiles on the Taiwan side of the Strait," Wilder said.
Abe was slated to arrive in Washington yesterday, joining Bush at a "small informal dinner in the private quarters of the White House" that evening.
Today, the two leaders are scheduled to travel to the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland, for a morning of discussions, press briefings and lunch.
It is Abe's first visit to Washington since his election last year.
The situation in the Taiwan Strait and China's military buildup against Taiwan would be one issue that would figure in the talks, Wilder said.
"Because of the large Chinese military buildup opposite Taiwan, and their deployment of a lot of missiles, their deployment of a lot of sophisticated technologies, we all have a concern that some in Beijing may at some point be tempted to coercion," he said.
Japan and the US share a common goal, to "persuade Beijing from ever being tempted down that path.
Therefore, we both seek to engage the Chinese in a way that keeps the Chinese on the path of diplomacy in their relations with Taiwan, that keeps the Chinese looking at positive ways to interact with Taiwan, and not negative ways," he said, noting that Washington also has urged Chinese leaders to talk directly with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his government.
"I think the Japanese share that feeling. Therefore I'm sure that the topic of Taiwan and its future is always a part of our discussions with the Japanese, because as like-minded democracies we see democratic development on Taiwan as a positive thing, and we want to help them keep that democracy vibrant and alive," he said.
Arms bill deadlock
Regarding the arms bill now bottled up in the Legislative Yuan, Wilder said the US wants the legislature to move ahead with it.
"We think that given the situation today across the Strait, that the people of Taiwan need to make a serious and sustained commitment to their defense needs. Therefore, we would hope that there would be, across party lines, in Taiwan a decision to move forward on increasing defense spending that would allow them to boost capacity," Wilder said.
"We think that developing defensive capabilities is the right thing to do," he said.
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