Magazine article National Defense

Chinese Step Up War of Words against Taiwan

Magazine article National Defense

Chinese Step Up War of Words against Taiwan

Article excerpt

Policy makers in the United States need to keep a cool head and take a broad-picture approach to relations with China and Taiwan, said a Washington, D.C. foreign policy expert.

Kenneth W Allen, a senior associate at The Henry L. Stimson Center, said the ongoing debate about U.S. relations with Taiwan, vis-a-vis China's opposition to U.S. military sales to that island must be seen in the context of various developments:

The political situation in Taiwan. U.S. internal politics.

China's desire to establish trade relations with the world's industrial and economic giants.

The intensified rhetoric in recent months from Beijing, Taipei and Washington, D.C., has elevated the Taiwan Straits to the number one flash-point in Asia.

Just as U.S. diplomats and military officials were working to mend Sino-American relations that chilled last spring-afterthe bombing of Chinas Embassy in BelgradeBeijing issued a series of warnings and ultimatums against U.S. support for Taiwan, which is, so far, resisting reunion with the mainland. China particularly is worried about the possible sale of missile defense technology by the United States to Taiwan. The anti-missile systems would help Taiwan defend against ballistic missile strikes from China.

During the 1996 Taiwan presidential elections, China tested several missiles in Taiwanese airspace.

Allen believes that vitriolic words are all that China will launch in the vicinity of Taiwan this time around. "Deng (former Chinese President Deng Xiaoping) and Jiang (Jiang Zemin current president) both said the same things years ago.

"Rhetoric is high, therefore it grabs headlines and is intended primarily for the benefit of the Chinese domestic audience, more than for Taiwan or the United States," Allen said.

China might resort to aggression, he added, if Taiwan went ahead and declared independence or a U.S. aircraft carrier sailed into the straits in a show of support for Taipei. Such a confrontational act would be taken as a direct challenge to Chinas national security, Allen said. Barring unexpected developments, he said, the Chinese leadership will adopt a more pragmatic approach even if its current nemesis-Chen Shui Bian, an advocate for independence and the Democratic Progress Party candidate-is elected. …

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