Missile Threat to Taiwan Causes Clinton Concern: But He Stresses One-China Policy

Article excerpt

President Clinton voiced "grave concern" yesterday over the growing Chinese missile threat to Taiwan, including construction of two short-range bases near the island.

"China is modernizing its military in a lot of ways, but our policy on China is crystal clear. We believe there is one China," Mr. Clinton said when asked about a report on the missile bases in yesterday's editions of The Washington Times.

The dispute between the mainland and Taiwan "has to be resolved through cross-strait dialogue," the president said. "And we oppose and would view with grave concern any kind of violent action."

Defense officials told The Times this week that the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) revealed that China is building two short-range missile bases near Taiwan. The bases at Yongan and Xianyou are nearly complete and will have about 100 new missiles, the agency said.

When completed, the missile bases will be able to attack all of Taiwan's major military bases with little or no warning, the DIA said.

The missile threat prompted Taiwan's vice president to state yesterday that the island should build long-range missiles to counter the threat.

The Times also disclosed that China is beginning work on a new strategic missile submarine that will have missiles capable of hitting all 50 American states.

Mr. Clinton said "there's been a lot of buildup of tension on both sides that I think is unnecessary and counterproductive."

Taiwan's economic investment in China, and increased ties between families on the island and the mainland have made both countries "too interconnected."

"And the politics of neither place should lead either side into doing something rash," Mr. Clinton said. "And I hope this will not happen."

But on Capitol Hill, several lawmakers said China's missile buildup opposite Taiwan is ominous.

John Czwartacki, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, said the Chinese missile buildup is troubling.

"It's unacceptable and counterproductive," he said.

Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the missile buildup by China "clearly adds underscoring to my observation that the opportunity for miscalculation in the Taiwan strait is very, very real."

Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, said China's military activities are "a telltale sign of future behavior."

"We ignore them at our own risk and the risk of our friends in Taiwan," Mr. Smith said. "There are ominous clouds on the horizon. [The U.S. needs] every

bit of statecraft, trade policy, linkage to human rights. We need a full court press" on Chinese leaders. Chinese Embassy spokesman Yu Shuning said he had not read The Times report but dismissed reports of the buildup as the work of China critics.

"These things play into the hands of those who have a `China Threat' theory," said Mr. Yu in an interview.

"This underscored the importance of a missile defense system for the U. …