Bush to warn Hu over military build-up

WASHINGTON MEETING: A US official said the US president will express his concerns over Beijing's missiles targeting Taiwan during his talks with his Chinese counterpart

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Wed, Apr 19, 2006 - Page 3

US President George W. Bush will express his administration's concern over China's military buildup against Taiwan when he meets Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in Washington tomorrow, a senior US government official said on Monday.

But the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he expected no "breakthroughs" on the Chinese military buildup issue during the summit talks.

In an extensive briefing on the Bush-Hu summit, the official also stressed the importance of Beijing entering into dialogue directly with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

But the official offered no judgement on the Beijing meeting with Taiwan's opposition party leaders, after which Hu called for dialogue based on the "1992 consensus" which Chen has rejected.

The official said that Bush, in the talks with Hu, will reiterate the administration's Taiwan policy, including its "one China" policy.

"It's not changing, hasn't changed and we're not going to change it," the official said.

Bush will also reiterate Washington's commitment to provide arms to Taiwan and will reject any Chinese effort to get the US to change that policy, the official said.

Overall, "a wide range of issues are capable of being raised by either side" on Taiwan, the official said.

The comments by senior US administration officials who took part in the briefing seemed to indicate that while Taiwan would be overshadowed by pressing US-China issues such as economics, trade and other global issues, the Taiwan issue may be dealt with in a substantial manner.

That is in contrast to many previous summits, in which Taiwan has come up in only a pro forma manner, with the Chinese side raising predictable points and Bush simply reiterating the US position.

It is clear that recent cross-strait developments, such as China's military buildup, Chen's scrapping of the National Unification Council as well as his plans for constitutional reform, demand more than cursory treatment this time.

On the Chinese military buildup, which has attracted increasingly nervous comments in Washington over the past year, the official stressed the matter was of "concern" to the Bush administration.

"It has to be of concern to us because while the Chinese government proclaims that its desire is for peaceful settlement of this situation, there is no doubt that since 1995 there has been a large increase in military capabilities opposite Taiwan," the official said.

"And we're not going to shy away from either talking about it or writing about it," he added.

He noted that recent Department of Defense reports on Beijing's military capabilities have underlined the issue, and that a new Pentagon report due this summer "will document again the increase in military capabilities opposite Taiwan at a time when Taiwan's military spending has been rather flat."

"At the same time that Taiwan is not spending more on defense, we find that Beijing is continuing to raise defense spending at double-digit rates. So this is an issue that we have to raise with the Chinese president," the official said.

In the context of the increasing Chinese military threat, the official said that China often urges Washington to end its military aid to Taiwan.

"There is no possible way we can end our military assistance to Taiwan under these circumstances," the official said, noting US obligations under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

"That is part of our policy, and we enunciate that to the Chinese," the official said.

On the issue of cross-strait dialogue, the official urged China to open direct talks with Chen. But asked about the recent pan-blue visit to Beijing, the official said the US welcomes dialogue with "all authorities in Taipei," presumably including the opposition forces.

However, "it's important that the central government in Beijing engage directly with the elected government in Taipei, and that is with the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party]," he said.

Citing the dialogue between China and the opposition parties over the past year, the official said: "Our position with the Chinese government has been that dialogue is good, but dialogue with the elected government in Taipei is essential."