- The Washington Times - Monday, February 14, 2000

Helms raps diplomat

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms and Chinese Ambassador Li Zhaoxing have crossed swords in recent days with a surprisingly undiplomatic exchange of letters prompted by passage in the House of the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act (TSEA).

At issue are remarks by Liu Xiaoming, deputy chief of mission at the Chinese Embassy, who according to Mr. Helms declared at a Feb. 3 news conference that "the consequences of the Congress passing the [bill] would be more than China recalling its ambassador and far worse than Lee Teng-hui's visit to Cornell."

China was outraged when the Taiwan president visited the United States in 1995 to attend a function at Cornell University, where he had earned a doctorate in economics in 1968. China subsequently fired rockets at both ends of the Taiwan Strait.

Mr. Helms fired off the first letter on Wednesday, saying he was "aghast" at Mr. Liu's "insults and threats" toward those members of Congress who voted for the bill to increase arms sales to Taiwan, which passed the House Feb. 2 on a vote of 341-70.

"Such rhetoric from the second-ranking Chinese official in the United State requires clarification," the North Carolina Republican wrote.

Mr. Helms said Mr. Lee's visit to Cornell had sparked "belligerent military action by your government against peaceful, democratic Taiwan" and asked whether Mr. Liu's statement meant Beijing "will use military force against the Republic of China on Taiwan if the U.S. Congress passes this legislation?"

He added that China's "threatening military building and belligerent rhetoric" against Taiwan are "precisely what has prompted such overwhelming congressional support" for the bill.

Mr. Helms said Mr. Liu "also personally attacked members of the House of Representatives" by saying they were too poorly educated to understand China.

"Members of Congress no matter how educated they may be about China are not likely to respond positively to the sort of insults and threats issued by Mr. Liu," Mr. Helms wrote.

In a reply to Mr. Helms dated Saturday and made available to Embassy Row yesterday, Ambassador Li wrote that he had long hoped to meet the senator and was "baffled that you … should have chosen to unleash a public bombardment of attacks, ridicules and insinuations against my deputy chief of mission."

Mr. Li said he had reviewed transcripts of Mr. Liu's remarks and "arrived at the conclusion Mr. Liu said nothing wrong or inappropriate… . China is and remains strongly opposed to the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act . . and we will not flinch from voicing our view."

By comparing the bill to Mr. Lee's visit, his deputy had been saying that U.S.-Chinese relations would be damaged more severely by this act than they were by Mr. Lee's trip to Cornell, the ambassador wrote.

Saying the act undermines the "one China" principle endorsed by President Clinton and would "embolden the already recalcitrant separatist forces on Taiwan," he said he was unsure whether the relationship "can survive the explosive developments that TSEA is destined to set in motion."

As for the education of U.S. congressmen, the ambassador said "it is a fact that some Congressmen did not have adequate knowledge of the origin of the Taiwan question," and cited Mr. Helms' letter as an example.

It is more than 20 years since the United States recognized Beijing as the sole legal government of China, Mr. Li wrote.

"Yet your are still referring to the Chinese province of Taiwan as 'Republic of China on Taiwan' and the leader of Taiwan as 'president.' It would be an understatement just to call this 'ignorance' or 'lack of knowledge.' "

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:


* Alexander Livshits, a special envoy for Russian acting President Vladimir Putin, who meets officials at the State Department, National Security Council, International Monetary Fund and Export-Import Bank.

* Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, who has meetings this week with Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and National Security Council official Christopher Hill. Mr. Rupel is the former Slovenian ambassador to the United States.

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