- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2000

Trade alone does not define our relationship with China. So, now that the issue of whether to grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations to that country is behind us, we should focus on Beijing's troubling anti-American rhetoric to determine whether and how to respond.

Time and time again, Chinese officials and state-sponsored media have made bellicose and threatening statements aimed at the United States and our long-standing, democratic ally, Taiwan. They have even gone so far as to issue implied threats to use nuclear weapons against the United States.

In February, an editorial in the People's Liberation Army Daily stated that China has the capability of launching a "strategic counterattack" and a "long distance strike" against the United States, boasting that, therefore, "it is not wise to be at war with … China." Another editorial in a military-owned newspaper was more blunt, warning that, "The United States will not sacrifice 200 million Americans for 20 million Taiwanese." In addition, China's top arms control official, Sha Zukang, has warned that a U.S. move to protect Taiwan with a theater missile defense system would "bring severe consequences."

And U.S. protection of Taiwan is not an improbable circumstance. China's leaders have threatened to invade Taiwan. A "White Paper" issued by China's State Council in February warned, "If the Taiwan authorities indefinitely refuse to peacefully settle the reunification issue through dialogue, the Chinese government will be forced to adopt all possible drastic measures, including military force." Chinese President Jiang amplified this threat in March, stating, "If we were to take military action [against Taiwan], it should be sooner rather than later."

The rhetoric from Beijing has also been accompanied by troubling actions. China is increasing its arsenal of long-range, nuclear-tipped missiles targeted at American cities (regardless of whether we deploy a national ballistic missile defense). It is greatly increasing the number of short-range missiles aimed at Taiwan. And, it has taken steps to improve its ability to invade or blockade the island.

China has also been the world's worst proliferator of missiles and weapons of mass destruction. It has sold ballistic missile technology to Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya, and Pakistan, despite promising to adhere to the Missile Technology Control Regime. It has sold nuclear technology to Iran and Pakistan. It has aided Iran's chemical weapons program and sold that nation advanced cruise missiles. Because of China's assistance to rogue nations and its military advances, the American people, and our forces and friends abroad, face a much greater threat.

Less than a year after the end of World War II, Winston Churchill explained how the world had failed to heed the warning signs that would have allowed it to prevent the war, saying, "I cried aloud to my own fellow-countrymen and to the world, but no one paid any attention. Up till the year 1933 or even 1935, Germany might have been saved from the awful fate which has overtaken her … There never was a war in all history easier to prevent by timely action than the one which has just desolated such great areas of the globe … but no one would listen … We surely must not let that happen again."

China is not Nazi Germany, and we face greatly different challenges in dealing with this communist nation in transition. But, for the sake of potential profits, many are quick to dismiss the rhetoric from Beijing as empty threats. They could be, but I believe we must be prepared for another possibility. What if China's leaders mean what they say?

China's threat to use missiles armed with nuclear weapons against the United States is one of the more compelling reasons why we need a national missile defense system. We should also strengthen military ties to Taiwan, and make clear that we will meet our commitments to defend our long-standing ally should China attempt to invade the island. This is still the best way to deter such an attack. And finally, we need to use the full array of economic and diplomatic tools to halt China's sales of missiles and weapons of mass destruction to rogue states.

The West ignored warnings from totalitarian regimes in the past and paid a high price. Prudence demands that we take steps to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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