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The Washington Times
White House backs strong defense of Taiwan
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Bush administration will do "whatever it takes" to defend Taiwan from military strikes by China, according to a recent closed-door speech by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz that drew an angry response from China yesterday.
"As President Bush and others have said, the United States is committed to doing whatever it takes to help Taiwan defend itself," Mr. Wolfowitz said March 11 in Florida at a meeting of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, an industry group.
At the meeting attended by U.S. and Taiwanese military and defense officials, including Taiwan's defense minister, Tang Yiau-ming, Mr. Wolfowitz said helping Taiwan better integrate its military forces is as important as selling it arms, according to a copy of the speech.
"Taiwan needs to reform its defense establishment to meet the challenges of the 21st century," Mr. Wolfowitz said. Improvements are needed in civilian oversight of the military, the weapons-buying process and greater coordination among its army, navy and air force, he said.
China's Communist government yesterday criticized Mr. Wolfowitz's comments, saying they interfered with China's internal affairs.
"The comments of the senior U.S. defense official seriously violated the clear-cut promises laid out in the three joint communiques and moreover rudely interfered in China's internal political affairs," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said at a news conference in Beijing.
The spokeswoman said the deputy defense secretary's comments had "ulterior motives" that are opposed by China, which views Taiwan as a breakaway province.
"The Taiwan problem is an internal issue of China's, and no outside country has the right to interfere," she said.
Beijing also expressed its anger at the meeting by denying entry to Hong Kong by the USS Curtis Wilbur, a guided missile destroyer based in Yokosuka, Japan.
Official Chinese press accounts have said Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao's visit to the United States could be postponed because of differences over Taiwan. Mr. Hu is expected to become China's next supreme Communist leader and is set to visit the United States later this month.
Last month's U.S.-Taiwan Business Council meeting in St. Petersburg, Fla., is part of a new Bush administration policy toward Taiwan that relies more on the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. The law allows the United States to sell defensive arms to Taiwan and says the United States will not allow the forced reunification of the island with the mainland China.
During the Clinton administration, the U.S. government emphasized three joint communiques with Beijing that outline U.S.-China relations and do not have the force of law.
The meeting and attendance by Mr. Tang was the first time a senior Taiwanese defense official was permitted to visit the United States since Washington broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognized China in 1979.
"We take very seriously our responsibility under the Taiwan Relations Act to make available to Taiwan defense articles and services that enable it to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability," Mr. Wolfowitz said, noting that the administration has ended the restrictive process of allowing Taiwan to purchase arms only once a year.
Mr. Bush in April 2001 announced that the United States would sell Taiwan up to eight diesel submarines and four Kidd-class guided-missile destroyers to bolster its defenses. He also allowed Taiwan to buy new missiles, aircraft and helicopters.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced this week that a delegation of U.S. defense officials would visit Taiwan next month to discuss building the submarines. The United States does not build diesel submarines, but defense officials said they are examining whether to restart their production.
A Pentagon spokesman said Navy officials have reviewed 14 proposals from seven U.S. and foreign defense contractors, including Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Dynamics Corp., who are interested in building the submarines.
The diesel submarines are expected to cost between $250 million and $500 million, significantly less than nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines that cost more than $1 billion.
Mr. Wolfowitz's remarks were in sharp contrast to the Clinton administration approach to Taiwan, which favored closer ties to the mainland. The policy resulted in a sharp reduction in arms sales to Taiwan during the 1990s.
Mr. Wolfowitz also said China is continuing its buildup of short-range missiles opposite Taiwan, while refusing to renounce the use of force to reunite the two nations.
"These missiles are clearly designed to project a threatening posture, and to try to intimidate the people and the democratically elected government of Taiwan — so far, I'm happy to say, without much success," he said.
U.S. intelligence officials disclosed to The Washington Times last week that China recently added additional CSS-7 short-range missiles to a base at Yongan, within range of Taiwan. The missile force is now estimated at more than 350 missiles.
Mr. Wolfowitz said that "China is not an enemy" and that military ties with the mainland will be carried out in selected areas. "But these must be disciplined, purposeful and systematic," he said.
"Our position is clear. We don't support Taiwan independence, but we oppose the use of force," Mr. Wolfowitz said.
The speech was made public through the Freedom of Information Act.
China's government also is upset by the recent disclosure of U.S. nuclear war-fighting plans revealing that the Pentagon is prepared to use nuclear arms in a conflict over Taiwan.
It was also angered by remarks by Mr. Bush in which he referred to Taiwan as a "country." The administration privately notified the Chinese that the president's remark was a mistake.
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