Issues Warning to China
U.S. Officials Criticize Beijing's Broadening of Reasons
to Use Force Against Taiwan
By Steven Mufson and Helen Dewar
Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 23, 2000; Page A16
Pentagon official yesterday warned China that it would face
"incalculable consequences" if it followed through on threats
to use force against Taiwan.
warning came in response to a Chinese government "white paper"
that broadened the reasons Beijing would consider sufficient
for using force against the self-governing island.
B. Slocombe, an undersecretary of defense who returned this
week from high-level talks in Beijing on strategic issues,
said the Chinese policy statement, "if it says what it appears
to say, is a new and troubling formula."
members of Congress also reacted angrily to China's threat.
"The white paper comments are unacceptable," said Sen. John
F. Kerry (D-Mass.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
"There is no other way to put it. And I think many of us are
surprised by the bluntness and inappropriateness of this particular
were particularly taken aback by the policy statement because
China issued it Monday, only six or seven hours after Slocombe,
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and other top U.S.
officials had left Beijing. During wide-ranging talks, the
Americans had urged China to show restraint in the weeks leading
up to Taiwan's presidential elections in March. China gave
the officials no hint that it was about to revise its Taiwan
important for China not to do anything that will add to tension
in the Taiwan Strait, and to allow [Taiwan's] elections to
go forward and a new government to form its own policy," Slocombe
said in an interview yesterday.
past, China has said that it might use force if Taiwan formally
declared independence or was occupied by a foreign power.
In the white paper, Beijing added that it would also consider
force to be justified if Taiwan's authorities refused indefinitely
"the peaceful settlement of cross-straits reunification through
Chinese officials have privately told U.S. officials of their
impatience about reunifying democratic Taiwan with the communist
mainland, U.S. officials have argued that public threats only
make a peaceful agreement less likely. The new policy document,
one administration official said yesterday, shows that "China
runs the risk of misjudging both the politics of Taiwan and
the politics of the United States."
Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), who sponsored recent legislation
to boost military coordination between the United States and
Taiwan, said the white paper "will, in my view, only serve
to further convince Congress that Taiwan needs America's full
and unreserved support."
leaders said it would not affect an impending vote to grant
China permanent "normal trade relations" status as part of
China's joining the World Trade Organization.
see this [the trade agreement] as much more in America's interest
than China's interest" and believe expanded trade is the best
way to encourage reforms in China, said Senate Minority Leader
Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.).
think [China's threat] directly affects [the China trade vote],
but it's not helpful," added Senate Majority Leader Trent
very alarming, and the alarm is universally felt in our [Republican]
caucus," Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), a member of the Foreign
Relations Committee, said of the white paper. "Many of us
would like to see trade relations go forward, but we are also
sympathetic toward the democratic government in Taiwan and
don't want to see them bullied into reunification."
raised the possibility that the Taiwan Security Enhancement
Act, already passed by the House, could be added to the trade
bill on the floor of the Senate, greatly complicating passage.
legislation would bolster U.S. military exchanges with Taiwan
and force the administration to inform Congress about details
of Taiwan's requests for arms sales, which would result in
greater pressure for such sales. The Clinton administration
is strongly opposed to the measure.
Slocombe said yesterday that future U.S. arms sales to Taiwan,
frequently deplored by Beijing, would depend on Taiwan's defensive
needs, as set out in agreements with China two decades ago.
"We're committed by law to provide Taiwan with the means to
defend itself," Slocombe said. "That relates to what kind
of threat Taiwan is facing. The ability of China's military
is an important factor in what we decide to sell."
in testimony before the Asia-Pacific subcommittee of the Senate
Foreign Relations committee, Assistant Secretary of State
for Asian Affairs Stanley Roth said he believes "there are
requirements on Taiwan's side that need to be addressed, and
there will be recommendations, and you will see additional
writer Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.