Paal tells Chen not to provoke China

CONFERENCE SPEECH: The AIT director said China's economic growth has fueled its military expansion and that the threat posed by Beijing cannot be ignored

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Oct 01, 2003 - Page 3

Saying that China's growing economy has allowed it to upgrade its military forces, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Douglas Paal yesterday said that both Taiwan and the US can not ignore the threat posed by the emerging cross-strait military imbalance.

"The rapid expansion of China's economy has allowed it to upgrade its military forces and has given rise to growing nationalism that could manifest itself in an unpredictable way," Paal said.

"Neither Taiwan nor the United States can ignore the threats post by an emerging cross-strait military imbalance," he said.

Paal made the remarks in a keynote speech to the International Conference on Political and Econo-mic Security in Asia-Pacific.

The two-day conference, sponsored by the Foundation on International and Cross-Strait Studies, wrapped up yesterday.

Saying that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has demonstrated that he understands the danger and that the US salutes Chen's recent initiative to enhance the nation's self-defense capacity, Paal said, "We [the US] are ready to assist Taiwan in this endeavor."

Paal expressed the hope that China will not backslide into confrontation, but warned against taking anything for granted.

"Until Beijing abandons its authoritarian political structure and forswears the use of military force against Taiwan, it would be irresponsible for either Taipei or Washington to let down our guards," he said.

"The Taiwan Strait remains the world's most dangerous flash-point and preventing a conflict here remains a vital US national security concern," he said.

Paal also stressed that the US will not trade her core values and interest for cooperation on issues of global concern.

"Many in Taiwan and observers elsewhere expressed concern that the United States might sacrifice its commitment to Taiwan to obtain China's assistance in containing North Korea," Paal said.

"Aside from the solid legal, moral and historical foundation of America's relations with Taiwan, this assumption ignores the reality that the threats of nuclear proliferation and instability in the Korean Peninsula has first and foremost threats to China's interest," Paal said.

"We will not violate our commitment to Taiwan over North Korea issue or any other issues," he said.

When pressed by reporters to comment on Chen's recent declaration that he would push for a new Constitution in 2006, Paal said only that, "the US government has expressed its support for Chen's `Five No's' and take them seriously."

The "Five No's" were promises made by Chen in his 2000 inauguration speech.

They were: no declaration of Taiwanese independence, no change in the country's name, no change in the Constitution, no referendum on Taiwan's future and no abolition of the unification guidelines.