Magazine article Insight on the News

Red China Threatens War over Taiwan

Magazine article Insight on the News

Red China Threatens War over Taiwan

Article excerpt

When the United States sails one Of its most lethal aircraft-carrier battle groups through the Taiwan Strait between China and Taiwan, it's no accident.

It's not that sending a nuclear-powered U.S. carrier and five escort ships equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles that close to the Chinese mainland is illegal or violates any treaty. It's that it's likely to be seen as extremely provocative.

And since we haven't dispatched that much naval firepower through the 70-mile-wide strait since establishing diplomatic relations with China in 1979, you have to ask yourself why we're doing it now, when relations between Washington and Beijing are at their lowest and nastiest level in years.

News that the USS Nimitz and its escort vessels had recently sailed through the strait out in late January. In confirming the leak, a Pentagon spokesman said the carrier battle group took the unusual route because of bad weather on the eastern side of Taiwan.

I don't know about you, but the Chinese aren't going to buy that badweather business for a second. Not when it comes two days after another leak about how China is stepping up its threats to attack Taiwan, the island of 21 million inhabitan'ts Beijing claims as its territory.

The timing of these two leaks almost certainly was no coincidence. It fits in with a pattern of escalating threats and counterthreats that has characterized U.S.-Chinese relations since the president of Taiwan was allowed to visit the United States last year.

The visit enraged the Red Chinese, who accused Washington of planning to reestablish diplomatic relations with Taiwan and not so secretly encouraging the Taiwanese independence movement. Beijing officials were so mad, in fact, they decided to stir things up a bit by conducting ballistic-missile tests off the coast of Taiwan last summer. And that wasn't the end of it. Since the summer, the Chinese military has been building up its forces along the coast opposite Taiwan and letting it be known they would be conducting invasion maneuvers about the time Taiwan holds presidential elections this spring.

The maneuvers, the military buildup and apparently a message from the Chinese themselves were behind a warning carried to the White House earlier this month by Charles Freeman, a former assistant secretary of defense and No. …

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