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Q: Mr. President, in U.S. treaty relations, is it obligated to defend Taiwan militarily if it abandons the one-China policy?  And would the U.S. continue military aid if it continues -- if it pursues separatism?

President Clinton: Let me say first of all, a lot of those questions are governed by the Taiwan Relations Act, which we intend to honor.

Our policy is clear.  We favor the one-China policy.  We favor the cross-strait dialogues.  The understanding we have had all along with both China and Taiwan is that the differences between them would be resolved peacefully.  If that were not to be the case, under the Taiwan Relations Act, we would be required to view it with the gravest concern.

But I believe that both China and Taiwan understand this.  I believe that they want to stay on a path to prosperity and dialogue, and we have dispatched people today, as morning press reports, to do what we can to press that case to all sides.  This is something that we don't want to see escalate, and I believe that what Mr. Lee said yesterday was trying to move in that direction.

We all understand how difficult this is, but I think that the pillars of the policy are the right ones.  The one-China policy is right, the cross-strait dialogue is right, the peaceful approach is right, and neither side, in my judgment, should depart from any of those elements.

Q: But we would still have to go to war with China if it decided to break away?

President Clinton: I will say what I've already said.  The Taiwan Relations Act governs our policy.  We made it clear, and I -- as you remember, a few years ago, we had a physical expression of that -- that we don't believe there should be any violent attempts to resolve this, and we would view it seriously.

But I don't believe there will be.  I think that both sides understand what needs to be done.

Q: Mr. President, do you think that President Lee was unnecessarily provocative in trying to redefine the nature of the Taiwan-Chinese relationship?  And is the United States trying to send a signal by delaying a Pentagon mission which was going to Taiwan to assess its air defense needs?  And further, finally, you said that you still believe in a one-China policy.  How do you address Senator Helms's criticism that that policy is a "puzzling fiction"?

President Clinton: I don't think it's a puzzling fiction.  I think that it -- but if Senator Helms means that today they're not in fact unified, then that's true.  But the Chinese tend to take a long view of things and have made clear a sensitivity to the different system that exists on Taiwan and a willingness to find ways to accommodate it, as they did in working with Hong Kong, and perhaps even going beyond that.

So I think the important thing is to let -- they need to take the time necessary to work this out between themselves in a peaceful way.  That is clearly in both their interests.

And I'm still not entirely sure, because I have read things which seem to resonate both ways on this, exactly what the Lee statements were trying to convey.  But I think that both sides are now quite aware of the fact that they need to find a way to pursue their destinies within the framework that we have followed these last several years which, I might add, has allowed both places to prosper and grow, to do better and to have more contacts, more investment, and underneath the rhetoric, quite a bit more reconciliation.  So I would hope that we would stay with what is working and not depart from it.

Q: And the meaning of the delay of the Pentagon mission, to assess the --

President Clinton: I didn't think this was the best time to do something which might excite either one side or the other and imply that a military solution is an acceptable alternative.  If you really think about what's at stake here, it would be unthinkable.  And I want -- I don't want to depart form any of the three pillars.  I think we need to stay with One China, I think we need to stay with the dialogue, and I think that no one should contemplate force here.


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