- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 1999

President Clinton voiced “grave concern” yesterday over the growing Chinese missile threat to Taiwan, including construction of two short-range bases near the island.
“China is modernizing its military in a lot of ways, but our policy on China is crystal clear. We believe there is one China,” Mr. Clinton said when asked about a report on the missile bases in yesterday’s editions of The Washington Times.
The dispute between the mainland and Taiwan “has to be resolved through cross-strait dialogue,” the president said. “And we oppose and would view with grave concern any kind of violent action.”
Defense officials told The Times this week that the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) revealed that China is building two short-range missile bases near Taiwan. The bases at Yongan and Xianyou are nearly complete and will have about 100 new missiles, the agency said.
When completed, the missile bases will be able to attack all of Taiwan’s major military bases with little or no warning, the DIA said.
The missile threat prompted Taiwan’s vice president to state yesterday that the island should build long-range missiles to counter the threat.
The Times also disclosed that China is beginning work on a new strategic missile submarine that will have missiles capable of hitting all 50 American states.
Mr. Clinton said “there’s been a lot of buildup of tension on both sides that I think is unnecessary and counterproductive.”
Taiwan’s economic investment in China, and increased ties between families on the island and the mainland have made both countries “too interconnected.”
“And the politics of neither place should lead either side into doing something rash,” Mr. Clinton said. “And I hope this will not happen.”
But on Capitol Hill, several lawmakers said China’s missile buildup opposite Taiwan is ominous.
John Czwartacki, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, said the Chinese missile buildup is troubling.
“It’s unacceptable and counterproductive,” he said.
Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the missile buildup by China “clearly adds underscoring to my observation that the opportunity for miscalculation in the Taiwan strait is very, very real.”
Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, said China’s military activities are “a telltale sign of future behavior.”
“We ignore them at our own risk and the risk of our friends in Taiwan,” Mr. Smith said. “There are ominous clouds on the horizon. [The U.S. needs] every bit of statecraft, trade policy, linkage to human rights. We need a full court press” on Chinese leaders.
Chinese Embassy spokesman Yu Shuning said he had not read The Times report but dismissed reports of the buildup as the work of China critics.
“These things play into the hands of those who have a China Threat’ theory,” said Mr. Yu in an interview.
“This underscored the importance of a missile defense system for the U.S. and Taiwan,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican and leading congressional critic of China.
“We are obviously confronting a belligerent regime in China that is investing in weapons systems that are a grave threat to their neighbors and a grave threat to the U.S.,” he said.
“Where … is our president on issues of this importance?” he said. “How could he call someone a strategic partner when they are building new weapons of mass destruction and pointing them at democratically elected governments?”
Pentagon spokesman P.J. Crowley said he has no comment on the missile buildup because of a policy of not talking about intelligence matters.
In Taiwan, Vice President Lien Chan said in an address in Taipei that the island should counter the Chinese missile threat by building long-range missiles of its own.
Mr. Lien told a military seminar that Taiwan needs a deterrent capability that can survive a blitz by China and be able to counterattack, Agence France-Presse reported from Taipei.
“In order to deter the enemy from invading Taiwan, we have to develop a reliable deterrent and beef up the second-strike capability,” Mr. Lien said.
Toward that goal, “the naval and air force must be strengthened … and long-range ground-to-ground missiles developed,” he said. “Over the past five decades, the Chinese Communists have emerged as the biggest threat to our national security.”
Taiwan was working secretly on Tien Ma Sky Horse missiles with a range of up to 620 miles, according to a Pentagon report. But the program was reportedly halted after diplomatic pressure was applied by the United States.
A spokesman for President Lee Teng-hui told Agence France-Presse that Mr. Lien’s statements highlight the island’s defense commitment.
“Beijing would have second thoughts before it launches an attack because once Taiwan is armed with a deterrent force, Taiwan would not necessarily be the sole possible battlefield in any military conflict between the two sides,” he said.
Exiled Chinese dissident Wei Jinsheng, who testified in the House, warned Congress yesterday that the Chinese pose a real military threat.
“Make no mistake, the current situation in China is very grave,” he said in a letter to a House International Relations subcommittee.
“Following America’s profuse and repeated apologies for the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade last May, the Communist Party’s leadership has only increased its attitude of defiance,” he wrote, quoting the Nov. 15 edition of a newspaper called Shijie Ribao.
“Chinese language newspapers have published sources stating that in a recent meeting with Chinese military officials, President Jiang Zemin ordered an increase in the speed of military development and scoffed that a so-called strategic partnership’ with the United States was impossible.’ “

Bill Sammon, Sean Scully, Ben Barber and Rowan Scarborough contributed to this report.

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