CHINA’S ‘CRAFTY REVENGE’
The Obama administration is braced for a tough Chinese reaction to the latest U.S. arms sale to Taiwan and is worried it will come during the visit to Beijing by White House National Security Adviser Thomas E. Donilon.
However, the U.S. intelligence community so far is unable to assess authoritatively just what China will do in response to the $5.8 billion arms package to upgrade Taiwanese fighters announced last month.
So far, China postponed the visit to China by Adm. Robert Willard, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, and blocked a China visit by the U.S. Army Band that was to reciprocate for China's military band touring the United States earlier this year.
“They also are slow-rolling most non-proliferation-related visits and meetings, obviously a subject they view as a favor to us since they don’t care about it,” one U.S. official said.
However, recent comments by Chinese Gen. Luo Yuan, Beijing’s high-profile military hawk, has provided what defense officials say are hints of ominous things to come.
Gen. Luo - senior political commissar for the General Logistics Department of the People’s Liberation Army who in the past has called for invading Taiwan - recently was quoted in a Chinese-controlled news report as saying China should respond to the latest arms sale with “crafty revenge” or “indirect revenge.”
Intelligence analysts were left trying to discern Gen. Luo’s meaning and whether the comments signal that China's military plans a high-profile response.
China regards Taiwan as an unfinished part of the Communist Party’s consolidation of power in 1949 and has threatened in the past to go to war if the island declares formal independence. Gen. Luo and others have warned that the Chinese government’s failure to take “offensive” responses to successive arms sales packages is leading to Beijing losing Taiwan.
Gen. Luo was quoted in the press report Sept. 23 as saying the U.S. upgrading of Taiwan’s F-16s was a “trick” to deceive the Chinese people. He also warned that the arms sale may prompt unspecified new steps to bolster military power designed to curb Taiwan secession. China currently has more than 1,000 missiles aimed at Taiwan from positions along the coast.
The Chinese general urged China to follow Russia’s lead. In 2008, Moscow deployed SS-27 ICBMs near its western border with Europe and threatened to move advanced short-range missiles to the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, successfully dissuading the Obama administration from deploying ground-based anti-missile interceptors in Poland.
Last year, Gen. Luo called for punishing the United States by selling off China-held Treasury debt holdings.
The Obama administration was embarrassed twice in recent months by the Chinese during high-level visits. In January, China's military without warning conducted the first flight test of a new J-20 stealth jet during the visit to Beijing by then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
Then in July, Chinese Gen. Chen Bingde, chief of the general staff, embarrassed Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, by making sarcastic comments during a news conference in Beijing when he told American taxpayers they are spending too much on defense.
China in the past used missile tests to send political signals to its main superpower rival, so U.S. intelligence agencies are on alert for any unexpected military activities during Mr. Donilon’s visit to China, which begins this weekend.