- The Washington Times - Friday, March 3, 2000

In the late 1930s, Adolf Hitler threatened war. Ignoring the rearmament restrictions of the World War I armistice, he built a powerful military machine that terrorized his small neighbors and intimidated the large ones.
After absorbing Austria and Czechoslovakia without a fight, he thought his remaining neighbors would continue trying to appease him. So he invaded Poland and started World War II. When political leaders with large and growing armies threaten war,it is wise not only to pay attention, but to build defenses and cement alliances.
For at least the last five years, the communist leaders in Beijing have been talking like Hitler. In 1995 and 1996, they went beyond talk and launched ballistic missiles off the coast of Taiwan. They are modernizing their military with some of the best equipment made in Russia and now say they will use force to take Taiwan if it does not agree to their terms. But military experts say not to worry, China does not have the forces needed to get across the 90 miles of water in the Taiwan Strait.
Maybe not today, but China's military is improving rapidly, and last year Beijing changed its strategy. Watching the growth of democracy on Taiwan, the rulers in Beijing see the island slipping away. No longer content to intimidate Taiwan to join the mainland, the new strategy is to launch a massive first strike with hundreds of ballistic missiles followed by huge air and naval attacks. In other words, a Hitler-style blitzkrieg, while holding the United States at bay with threats of nuclear missile attacks on undefended American cities.
To implement that strategy, Beijing is buying and building modern air, naval and missile forces and deploying them opposite Taiwan. A 1999 Defense Department report said Beijing will be able to launch an overwhelming attack on Taiwan with short- and medium-range ballistic missiles by 2005. China also is buying attack submarines, missile-firing destroyers, modern fighter aircraft and Russia's best air-to-air missiles.
As recently stated in the People's Liberation Army Daily, China's ultimate goal is to force the United States out of East Asia. But since the initial objective is to invade Taiwan, it is important to give Beijing pause by assuring that Taiwan has the best defenses possible.
Last year, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott amended the foreign operations appropriations bill to direct the Secretary of State to comply with the Taiwan Relations Act and consult with Congress on what military equipment should be sold to Taiwan.
Taiwan urgently wants to buy four Aegis destroyers to defend against the mainland's rapidly improving navy and its growing number of ballistic missiles. Taiwan also wants to buy improved radars, submarines, more Patriot missile interceptors, better air-to-air missiles and when available the new theater missile defenses Patriot PAC-3 and Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to defend against what the Central Intelligence Agency says soon could be as many as 650 Chinese missiles targeted on Taiwan.
But to avoid antagonizing Beijing, the Clinton administration has never sold a single major weapon system to Taiwan. The last was in 1991 when President Bush approved the sale of F-16 fighters. With Beijing hurling new war threats every week, the administration should be consulting with Congress on the weapons Taiwan needs for self-defense. But the State Department refuses to comply with the law and will not even discuss with Congress what weapons Taiwan wants to buy and why.
With the president out to lunch on China policy, it is up to Congress to try to prevent war in Asia. The best way to deter Beijing is to sell Taiwan everything it needs for self-defense, make it clear that any attack on democratic Taiwan will be met by U.S. force of arms, and build missile defenses to protect both Taiwan and the United States against Chinese intimidation.
Last month, the House voted 341-70 for the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act to strengthen Taiwan's security and warn Beijing of U.S. intentions. The administration said this new act is not needed because the existing Taiwan Relations Act meets Taiwan's defense needs.
The president then continued his pattern of appeasement, sending a high-powered delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott to China to assure Beijing he would veto the new act if it passes the Senate and reportedly to offer a de facto moratorium on new arms sales to Taiwan.
China then gave Mr. Clinton the back of its hand by releasing a "white paper" with a new threat to invade Taiwan, and the People's Liberation Army followed with another nuclear missile threat against the United States.
Appeasing Hitler did not work, and appeasing the rulers in Beijing is not working either. It is time to strengthen defenses, both here and on Taiwan. The administration's refusal to cooperate with Congress on Taiwan arms sales, as required by the Taiwan Relations Act, is a powerful reason for the Senate to follow the House and pass the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act by a veto-proof margin.

James T. Hackett is a contributing writer to The Washington Times based in San Diego.

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