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    McLaughlin Group

McLaughlin Group - Sunday March 5, 2000

[Video Clip] Albright:  "Taiwan has been a huge issue to them.  It's come up in every single discussion I've had with them over the years."

McLaughlin: "That's Secretary of State Albright saying that China is getting much more aggressive over Taiwan.  "Reunify, or we invade!"  The Chinese State Council declare a new policy two weeks ago: if reunification talks are unduly postponed, China will invade Taiwan.  "USA, stay out, or be nuked!"  If the US were to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack, China could -- maybe would -- launch a nuclear missile attack on California! -- so threaten the People's Liberation Army -- PLA -- in its official Communist daily newspaper this week.  It's the first time China has publicly threatened nukes.

"Beijing-Moscow anti-US axis."  A month after a meeting between defense ministers, Beijing sends its foreign minister to Moscow to meet his counterpart.  The two condemn any military interventions on the pretext of humanitarian need -- a.k.a., the Clinton doctrine.

"Chinese people say "ok" to Taiwan war."  83% of Chinese support a protracted 3 to 5 year war with Taiwan if Taiwan were to declare its independence -- so says a government poll -- maybe propaganda, maybe not.  Washington isn't taking this hard-line sitting down.

Taiwan Security Enhancement Act: 341 to 70.  That's the margin: 271 votes by which the US House of Representatives, one month ago, chose to beef up Taiwan's defense.  China is infuriated.

"Give Taiwan a unique missile defense."  Four ultra-high-tech destroyers, costing $6.5 billion together, equipped with AEGIS spy one radar that can scan 288 miles of ocean surface and pinpoint hostile targets.  No one has these beauties but us.  Taiwan wants to buy them.  Clinton plans to decide on whether to let them do so in April.  But Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott wants Clinton to say "yes" and to hurry up.  This is an alarming escalation practically everyone believes except Clinton, who seems insouciant, unworried about this tense Taiwan crisis.

[Video Clip] Clinton:  "I understand that this is the political season over there as well.  They're having a presidential election in Taiwan.  Sometimes things are said in political seasons that might not be said at other times."

McLaughlin: "Question -- what's the case for discounting China's bellicosity?  I ask you, Jim."

Jim: "I'm not sure it's Clinton's insouciance.  And, please also note, I'm -- man of principle Trent Lott for this -- must be a mere coincidence that two of those billion dollar ships would be built in the state of Mississippi, which he would love.  I think, first and foremost, Clinton's right about a little bit of election time posturing -- the election in Taiwan.  But, I also think that China's top priority right now is getting into the World Trade Organization, and they have botched this matter with Taiwan right now.  But, nevertheless, in the process of doing this they do underscore the inherent prediction, uh, contradiction, in our policy on one hand why defend Taiwan on the other hand officially recognizing China as the sole government of…"

McLaughlin: "That's a rather long answer but I appreciate your gallic expansiveness.  However, your quite wrong… that the principle reasons for not taking China's bellicosity seriously is the reason Clinton gave -- there's an election coming up on March the 18th.  And he wants…"

Guest: "John, there's an on-going democracy over there and that's what China is trying to squelch.  And the thing that's amazing about this thing which was just made three days after, I think, I believe it was three days, under Secretary of State Strobe Talbot was in Peking, they didn't give a hint that they were going to assert a sort of permanent state of belligerence over Taiwan. The fact is this gives them a cause of going forward against Taiwan at any time which they might take advantage of.  And it's a, uh, Clinton gave him the 4 no's when he went to China for the 9-day trip where he didn't even …  If our commitment to Taiwan is sundered, we also got other people there in China and East Asia, Korea and Japan, and China is saying they want …"

Guest Eleanor Clift: "Nobody is ripping the relationship with Taiwan asunder.  President was just speaking realistically.  In the last election in Taiwan, China did the same thing.  It's a little saber-rattling.  There's also an election season in this country.  And, on Capitol Hill where they tend to be more extreme than on the presidential campaign circuit and George Bush has been responsible about China.  People on the Hill want to portray the Democrats as lackeys of China especially in the context of Maria Hsiah's -- the Gore fund-raiser -- her conviction this week.  It's a campaign strategy to portray the Democrats as, you know, puppets of China.  It's a ridiculous strategy, I think, and flirts with national security."

Guest Tony Blankley: "I agree that at election time, there's a bit more saber-rattling but you want to look at how many more sabers that red Chinese are building.  And, the reports are that they are building capacities which will be available to them 2002, 2005 -- next few years -- that will allow them to do the kind of invasion across the straits they can't currently do.  So, it's more than just saber-rattling.  They're building it up.  And, that's measurable - our government's measured…"

McLaughlin:  You know what the triad is? Land, sea, and mobile missile fleet - they're building all three.

Blankley:  And, they're planning to be able to attack from it from above as well as to cross the straits within 5 to 7 years.  And that's the response, that's why Congress voted overwhelmingly Democrats … to help and it'll take about 5 years for our help to get to the Taiwanese.
McLaughlin:  There's a separate question here that's whether it's a good idea to sell these four destroyers or are there four involved? Now the AEGIS is an extraordinary phenomenon.  288 miles it can see and detect a hostile target, right?  Now, is it a good idea to really give those to the Taiwanese…
Blankley: "sell" them…
McLaughlin: "… or are we really giving them something that could fall into Chinese hands either through spying or even if there were reunification the Chinese would simply then come into possession of these extraordinarily sophisticated, unusual, no-one-else-has-them systems." Including hyper-developed torpedo systems, too.

Guest: "I'm sorry to curtail this history of radar.  But the fact also is that right now that Taiwan when it comes to military technology and equipment is superior to the Chinese.  But I think another lurking anxiety on the part of the Chinese, what they're ultimately I think really worried about militarily, is that these -- this AEGIS stuff becomes part of a integrated anti-missile system that Japan, the US, and Taiwan have.

Guy:  … yeah, so that they can't threaten us.

Host:  You know that Chinese is doing a lot of military buying from the Russians.  Which makes one of the points of that brilliant introduction that there is a Moscow-Beijing axis that is getting stronger with each passing day, particularly with Putin(?) in there pushing it along.  We'll be right back with predictions.

McLaughlin: Predictions, Michael......
Michael: The administration move for normal trade relations with China will fail in Congress.
Guest:  The unions are going to organize sometime in mid-April a Seattle-style demonstrations to keep China out of WTO here in Washington.
McLaughlin:  Prediction number one: the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act will pass the Senate.  Prediction number 2: Clinton will give it a pocket veto.  Prediction number 3: the China-Taiwan issue will figure big in the fall US presidential election, much like the Kennedy-Nixon Quemoy Matsu hassle.  You remember that, Michael?
Michael:  I remember that well.
Host:  Next week, Super Tuesday, with a total of 2,016 delegations to be won by both parties.  Happy Mardi Gras. Bye-bye.

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