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Bush Defers Destroyer Sale to Taiwan

Despite increasingly tense US-China relations, President Bush has decided he will not let Taiwan buy super-sophisticated naval destroyers this year, sources say.

According to a senior White House official, Bush decided Monday to take the advice of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell and forgo sales of missile destroyers with advanced Aegis systems to Taiwan.

While Taiwan will not be allowed to buy Aegis systems, the Navy's topflight air defense computer equipment, Bush will endorse the sale of less sophisticated items, the White House official said.

Visiting Taiwanese officials have been summoned to get the word officially from Rumsfeld on Tuesday.

Topping the list of less controversial items on Taiwan's shopping list that Bush has approved for sale are four Kidd-class destroyers and advanced missiles for Taiwanese air defense fighter jets.

Bush also has decided to help Taiwan get eight diesel-powered submarines, which the United States has not produced in three decades, and PC 3 Orion submarine-tracking aircraft.

Bush toyed with reporters earlier today, telling reporters he had made a decision but would keep it to himself. "You'll find out when I make my decision clear," Bush said today after a White House event. "I haven't made it clear yet. We'll let you know soon."

Many lawmakers, especially Republicans, had been pressuring Bush to provide Taiwan with more and better weapons.

A National Security Council official said one of the main criteria for the decision is the Taiwan Relations Act, which requires the United States provide enough arms to Taiwan to maintain the island's self-defense capability.

But there is the sense that the White House wishes to downplay the decision, describing it as a routine, annual decision. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer repeatedly told reporters, "This decision is an annual one. It has been faced by previous decisions ever since, I believe, 1982. And so I think you can view this as an annual occurrence that took place last year, it will take place next year.

"It's part of an ongoing obligation of the United States government to help Taiwan secure its defensive needs," he said.

(China Daily 04/24/2001)

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