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US Arms Sales to Taiwan Escalate Cross-Straits Tension

Chinese military and foreign affairs experts warned Thursday the US's arms sales to Taiwan will not only severely undermine the Sino-US relations, add to the risks of military collisions across the Taiwan Straits, but also probably lead to a "direct military confrontation" between China and the United States.

The US government announced Wednesday that it will sell advanced weapons and equipment worth billions of US dollars to Taiwan, including four Kidd-class destroyers, eight diesel-powered submarines, and 12 P-3C Orion submarine-hunting aircrafts.

China on Wednesday strongly protested against this provocative move and made solemn representations with the US government.

Lin Zhiyuan, an expert at China's Military Academy of Sciences, said that this is the biggest batch of arms sales by the US since 1992, when it sold 150 F-16 fighters to Taiwan.

Lin held that the US arms sales are aimed at trying to make up for the weakness of the Taiwan armed forces and helping harden Taiwan's stand on refusal of reunification by force.

Lin said that the direct objective of the arms sales is to maintain a relative balance of military strength across the Straits, and try to check the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to safeguard China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Intrinsically, however, the expert said, the US always regards Taiwan as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier", intending to use Taiwan to obstruct China's reunification and to restrain China, in an attempt to make the reunification of China impossible.

The US has always trumpeted that it is "protecting Taiwan", but its real intention is to protect its own strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region and to serve its strategic objective of global hegemonism, Lin stressed.

Professor Liu Wenzong, an expert on international law at the Foreign Affairs College here, pointed out that the US action, which clearly interferes in China's internal affairs and obstructs China's reunification efforts, has once again seriously violated both international law and norms governing international relations.

He indicated that all the US governments including the Bush administration have reiterated time and again their commitment to the three Sino-US joint communiques.

In the August 17 Communique, the US government made a clear commitment to the Chinese side that "it does not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan, that its arms sales to Taiwan will not exceed, either in qualitative or in quantitative terms, the level of those supplied in recent years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China, and that it intends to reduce gradually its sales of arms to Taiwan, leading over a period of time to a final resolution".

He held that the three Sino-US joint communiques are international documents of a treaty nature between the two countries. Although the US government has made oral promises to abide by the three communiques, it virtually denies them and does not implement them just by often using the Taiwan Relations Act.

Liu said that, in accordance with the stipulation of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations of 1969, the three documents, issued as "joint communiques", undoubtedly enjoy the nature of treaties.

What's more, it is one of the basic principles of international law that "treaties must be observed". Therefore, no country should violate international law and treaties under the excuse of its internal law provisions.

He stressed that all American traditional textbooks on international law emphasize the importance of observing international treaty obligations. It is also a general rule in various international documents and judicial practices that internal laws and stipulations must never override international laws.

"The US government, therefore, cannot justify its attempt to deny the three Sino-US joint communiques under the pretext of the Taiwan Relations Act from either the legislative or the moral perspective," he said.

Professor Wu Xinbo of the American Studies Center of Shanghai's Fudan University, said in a telephone interview that the US arms sales to Taiwan is not only a military issue but a serious political one.

The arms sales, in essence, give support to the "Taiwan Independence". Here the US's sinister motive is obvious, the scholar noted.

Wu said that he believed that the Taiwan issue could be solved peacefully through political means. However, the US, by selling Taiwan a large number of advanced weapons, virtually militarizes the issue.

This move will oblige the mainland to consider resorting to "other than ordinary means" to solve the Taiwan issue, Wu warned.

Wu said that some "Taiwan Independence" advocates believe that, armed with American weapons, they can rival the mainland militarily. Placing their hopes on the US, they might be induced by the arms sales to take extreme actions against the mainland.

The experts advised the US to stop selling weapons to Taiwan, and stop interfering in China's internal affairs. Otherwise, "it will not only severely undermine the Sino-U.S relations, add to the risks of military collisions across the Taiwan Straits, but lead to a direct military confrontation between China and America, " they agreed.

The US will end up with its own interests harmed, not to mention "protecting" Taiwan, and foreign weapons cannot help build up a "Taiwan Independence force", the experts state.

(China Daily 04/27/2001)

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