March 19, 2002

US-Taiwan Secret Talks on Arms Sale: Analysis

US President George W. Bush's February China visit has pushed China-US relations a step forward. However, inharmonious chord has arisen recently in the United States. The US government, on one hand, held the fourth China-US arms control symposium with the Chinese side in Washington, on the other hand, invited Tang Yiau-min, the "defense minister" of Taiwan to go to the United States to attend the so-called "US-Taiwan defense meeting" and quickened its step of arms sale to Taiwan.

With regard to the matter of US invitation to Taiwan's "defense minister" to visit the United States, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan pointed out on March 7 that the Chinese side had made serious representations with and lodged serious protest against the US side. On that same day, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhou Wenzhong was ordered to summon US Ambassador to China Clark Randt, making serious representations with the US government.

Representations between China and the United States concerning this matter have not come to an end. On March 9, the American "Los Angeles Times" divulged a shocking news: The United States has directed its nuclear weapon at China! The report says it has tried to obtain a copy of the secret report of the US Defense Department, which had been forwarded to US Congress on January 8 this year. The report indicates that the Bush administration has instructed US military to draw up a plan for launching nuclear attack under special circumstances and has prepared, when necessary, to use nuclear weapons against at least seven countries, including China. These seven countries are China, Russia, Iraq, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Iran, Libya and Syria. The report lists three possibilities for the use of nuclear weapons: First, attacking the targets by which the enemy can resist the non-nuclear attack; second, retaliating the enemy's attacks launched with nuclear and biochemical weapons; and third, coping with the special circumstance arising from contingencies. The "special circumstance" mentioned in the report includes conflicts in the Taiwan Straits. Although the US Defense Department spokesman denied the report about the United States aiming its nuclear weapons at China and other countries, he admitted that the secret report did exist. These practices on the part of the US government cannot but arouse China's high vigilance.

Heated disputes appeared between China and the United States at the arms control conference. From March 4 to 5, China and the United States, in accordance with the schedule, held the fourth China-US conference on armament control, disarmament and prevention of proliferation.

Personnel attending the seminar were of a high ranking, chief representative of the Chinese side was Liu Jieyi, director of the Arms Control Department of the Chinese Foreign Ministry; chief representative of the US side was an assistant Secretary of State in charge of the issue concerning a halt to the spread of weapons. According to a US media report, the topic for discussion at the conference is highly sensitive, which include topics on strategic stability, missile defense and the prevention of weapon proliferation. The sponsor repeatedly indicated that this was a civil regular conference with a very strong academic atmosphere, and it was not negotiation or consultation between governments of the two countries. However, shortly after the conclusion of Bush's China visit, what is more, since the seminar was attended by officials of both sides, so this meeting received the high attention of the two countries.

At the two-day seminar, both sides mainly expressed their own opinions. Both sides agreed that "the proliferation of massive lethal weapons should be checked", however, on the most sensitive question concerning US arms sale to Taiwan, representatives of both side had serious differences, a scene of heated disputes appeared for sometime at the venue. Representative of the Chinese side repeatedly stressed that US arms sale to Taiwan belonged to the topic of "armament control" and time and again expressed his opposition to US arms sales to Taiwan and interference in China's internal affairs. But representative of the US side, harping on the same old tunes, claimed that US arms sale to Taiwan was carried out in accordance with the "Taiwan Relations Act" and so "cannot and should not be confused with the issue concerning the proliferation of China's weapons".

US Lets Taiwan's "Defense Minister" Visit America

Precisely at the time when US and Chinese representatives were discussing matters concerning non-proliferation of weapons, the United States invited Taiwan's "defense minister" to go to the country to discuss the question related to US arms sale to Taiwan, so the US act is self-contradictory.

The "US-Taiwan defense summit meeting" was sponsored by the "US-Taiwan Business Council" composed of American firms selling weapons to Taiwan, and received assistance from several arms dealers. Senior US officials, including Carlucci, chairman of "US-Taiwan Business Council" and former US defense secretary; Paul Wolf-fowitz, current US deputy defense secretary; J. A. Kelly, assistant secretary of state in charge of East Asian affairs and Sorensen, an official in charge of arms sale for the air and army force as well as vice-chairman of the Lockheed and Martin companies and other munitions merchants, all delivered speeches at the meeting which was therefore called the first "bilateral meeting" of extremely large scale and high specification ever held since the "severance of diplomatic relations" between the United States and Taiwan in 1979.

Since Taiwan leader Chen Shuibian was anxious to further give himself up to the United States which, in turn, was also eager to further strengthen bilateral military cooperation, the "US-Taiwan Business Council" invited "defense minister" Tang Yiau-min who holds real power in Taiwan to attend the meeting. US State Department formally issued on March 6 a "service visa" to Tang Yiau-min who therefore became the first "defense minister" of the Taiwan authorities to pay a formal visit to the United States over the past 20-odd years since the "severance of diplomatic ties" between the United States and Taiwan. Reports say that, according to the schedule decided through discussion between the United States and Taiwan, Tang Yiau-min had started off from Taipei on March 9 to attend the meeting. With the said "service visa", Tang can give open speeches, participate in various activities and jointly attend the seminar with US officials. Taiwan authorities therefore played this up, claiming that this was a "major breakthrough made in the diplomatic and military exchanges between Taiwan and the United States".

Nevertheless, the matter concerning Tang's America visit did not evoke much reaction in the United States. Although Tang holds a high position in Taiwan, his name is completely strange to ordinary American people, so there are not many people showing interest in him. Furthermore, the United States treated the matter with a low-key as far as possible, not wanting to arouse the attention of the outside world. US Defense Department spokesman Davis deliberately avoided mentioning the fact about Deputy Defense Secretary Wolf-fowitz attending the meeting, he only said that the Defense Department officials attended the meeting in an "nonofficial capacity". The sponsor even adopted confidential measures, not only Tang's activities in the United States were kept secret, agenda of the meeting was not made known to the public, journalists were not allowed to cover the meeting.

But news about the matter quickly spread throughout Taiwan Island. Since the agenda of the meeting concerned US arms sale to Taiwan, so when the "Legislative Yuan" questioned Tang whether he was going to discuss matters concerning arms purchase in the United States and whether there were any behind-the-scene deals, Tang said that he was not to be accompanied by any "foreign ministry" staff in his American visit, and no "official visits" were arranged, and that the main purpose of his US trip was "to publicize Taiwan's defense policies among US arms dealers and to win recognition and support from international friends". Hard pressed, Tang was at last compelled to say with raised voice, "I go to the United States in the capacity of defense minister, I will absolutely not discuss the matter of arms purchase, still less privately meet with arms dealers".

However, it is already an indisputable fact that Taiwan authorities are actively strengthening their military exchanges with the United States and seeking to purchase advanced US weapons. At present, the form of US arms sale to Taiwan has been diversified and procedures have become more simple and convenient. The United States has promised that Taiwan can raise the demand for arms purchase from America at any time from now on. The United States has also decided to deliver a batch of new weapons to Taiwan ahead of schedule. The United States decided to sell four "Kidd-class destroyers to Taiwan last year, which were planned to be delivered in four-six years, but in order to allow Taiwan troops to carry out their "ocean operational plan" as soon as possible, America decided to deliver two "Kidd" destroyers to Taiwan in 2004. In February this year, Taiwan authorities raised the demand for buying 30 long bow-shaped attacking helicopters . Sources say that the US Defense and Security Cooperation Agency has left this matter of arms purchase to be handled by the US army, and the matter will be put to discussion and will likely be passed quickly.

Striking a "balance" between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan aims to seek a "balance" between the left- and right-wingers in the United States

The Bush administration was recently in intimate terms with Taiwan, this causes people to doubt whether its China policy is going to be changed. But some experts in contacts with our correspondents stationed in the United Nations headquarters said that superficially, the Bush administration's policy toward China appeared to be somewhat capricious, and this precisely reflected the characteristic of the policy-maker's intention to strike a "comprehensive balance" and give consideration to the interests of various quarters. No wonder that some experts said this is a "policy" without policy. A university professor said that if Bush wants to be re-elected for the second term, he must consider the political requirements of various quarters, and that resembling a puddle mixer, Bush is good at integrating different viewpoints, he, of course, needs to balance the interests of various quarters in handling relations with China. On other issues, he may be somewhat gentle, he needs to give consideration to the life-wingers and the middle-of-the- roaders, he appears to be tougher in his attitude toward the Taiwan issue, so that he can give more reflection of the viewpoints of the right-wing of the Republicans, to show the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats in their relations with China. Such basic principle actually has remained unchanged since Bush took office.

Another university professor who once worked in the US National Information Office said that the hard liners in the Bush administration are likely to overdo in dealing with the Taiwan or other sensitive issues, and supporters of Taiwan may also take Taiwan's interests into account at the expense of the stability of China-US relations. It can thus be seen that the problem arises mainly from among some people in the Bush administration, in dealing with the US-Taiwan ties, they ignore the interest of China-US relations and push an extreme policy. However, damaging China-US relations will naturally result in harming US national interests, this is precisely what the Bush administration needs to consider prudently.

(People's Daily March 18, 2002)

In This Series
China Protests US Official Contacts With Taiwan

Taiwan Straits Observation: Behind US-Taiwan Military Meeting

China Urges US to Recall Taiwan Invitation

Taiwan Issue Remains Core of Sino-US Relations

US Building Cross-Straits Barriers by Arms Sales

Official: US Threat Can't Bar China's Reunification

Seeking Independence, Buying Arms Bring Catastrophe to Taiwan: Commentator

Bush's Taiwan Comments a Move on `Dangerous Road' -- FM Spokeswoman

"Foreign Weapons" Cannot Build a "Taiwan Independence Force": Army Daily

Arms Sales to Taiwan Violate Agreements

China Strongly Opposes to Arms Sale to Taiwan

China Protests Against US Weapon Sale to Taiwan

China-US Relations: Neither Enemy Nor Close Friend

US Congress Hails 'One Country, Two Systems'

A Major Step to Push Forward Sino-US Ties: Interview

Taiwan Issue


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