- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2001

Taiwan is prepared to reassess its planned weapons purchases from the United States if China cuts its missile buildup on the mainland, Taiwans top diplomatic representative in the United States said in an interview.
This would mean that the Aegis-equipped anti-missile destroyers and the Patriot-3 anti-missile systems that Taiwan was not granted by the Bush administration in last weeks armaments package could be deferred indefinitely or even canceled. But Taiwan will go ahead with the agreed arms package of Kidd-class destroyers, diesel submarines and P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft.
"If the Peoples Republic of China is going to pull back or reduce their missile deployment, or if the military threat lessens, we can rethink our military procurements," Rep. Chien-Jen Chen said late last week. "Then we would be able to resume the cross-straits dialogue with the PRC and discover how we can cooperate to build security and prosperity in general.
"Remember the words of Chinas greatest military thinker, Sun Tzu, who said the wisest course was never to let war break out. That is what we are doing now.
"Our policy is to try to maintain peace. And rather than rely on military procurement, we would like to improve cross-straits relations, through our economic ties, through cultural and educational exchanges. There are so many different aspects we can use to make war unnecessary."
Mr. Chen said the government of Taiwan supported the broad outlines of a reconciliation plan, proposed by former Taiwanese Prime Minister Vincent Siew, which provides for a European-style common market between China and Taiwan that could then grow with time — like the European Union — into a closer political integration.
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian "has said that hed like to see the two sides try to understand each other through more exchanges, more economic and cultural integration first, and then gradually move on to more peaceful cooperation and even political integration," Mr. Chen said.
"When he said that, I think he had Vincent Siews idea in mind. But there has yet been no response from Beijing."
Still, he said, "I think we are moving in that direction, whatever common market or European Union name you may want to call it."
Mr. Chen spoke after a dramatic few days for relations among China, Taiwan and the United States. No sooner had the incident over the downing of the American EP-3E surveillance plane been resolved with the return of its 14-member air crew than President Bush announced the sale to Taiwan of an unprecedented arms package, prompting Chinas Foreign Ministry to warn of "devastating damage" to U.S.-Chinese relations.
Relations were further strained when Mr. Bush said in an interview that the United States would do "whatever it took" to defend Taiwan.
"I feel President Bush is trying to send a strong message indicating his concern for the security of Taiwan, and it is a good message," Mr. Chen said. "We feel it represents a positive attitude by the U.S. toward the situation."
Mr. Chen said Taiwan was "concerned for our security by the increase in Chinas defense budget, by its acquisition of new weapons and by its deployment of missiles opposite our shores.
"Whether this weeks developments of the arms agreement and President Bushs welcome statement of support for Taiwan will change matters, it is too soon to tell. I dont see big changes, but if there are changes, we hope they will be changes for the better," he said.
Mr. Chen, who served as Taiwans foreign minister before taking up his post as its top official in the United States, is a courtly, professional diplomat, educated at Cambridge University in England.
The U.S. recognition of the Beijing government means that he does not hold the formal title of ambassador, although he presides over a diplomatic staff of 200 in a large building in Northwest Washington, along with offices for Taiwans military and commercial missions.
Despite his British education, Mr. Chen was unfazed by the slowness of European countries to react to the establishment of democracy, free speech and free institutions.
"I think the Europeans could do more. But our relationship with the U.S. is the most important.
"What we have achieved in Taiwan with democracy, human rights and freedom is not just something of which we can be proud, but this achievement is also worth preserving and protecting not just by us but by others.
"In taking care of Taiwans security, we are not just protecting our own interests but the interests and values of other free and democratic countries."

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