- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2001

Outgoing Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Stanley Roth yesterday warned the incoming administration not to "militarize" the Taiwan-China relationship, which he said could destabilize U.S. relations with China.
"Too much attention is paid to weapons," which Taiwan has requested from the United States and which China is urging not be sold.
"Once the issue is militarized, Taiwan is lost," Mr. Roth said at a breakfast hosted by the Asia Society yesterday. "This issue has to be on a political track."
Also yesterday, Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Taiwan's "new arms requests will prompt one of the toughest early national security decisions faced by the Bush administration."
"The tensions between China and Taiwan will, if not mitigated, lead to a confrontation that will seriously jeopardize U.S. interests," Mr. Lugar said at a Hudson Institute conference in Indianapolis.
Mr. Roth said there is "growing suspicion in China about the intentions of the United States."
Those concerns were fueled by the accidental U.S. bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, as well as by NATO expansion, the Kosovo intervention, new U.S.-Japanese military guidelines, President Clinton's visits to China's Asian rivals India and Vietnam, resumed U.S. Navy ship visits to the Philippines and U.S. military and other backing for Taiwan, he said.
Mr. Roth also said he is "worried about cross-strait relations" because neither Taiwan nor China "fundamentally understands the other."
He called China's efforts to ignore Taiwan's elected government and cultivate ties with opposition groups "clumsy" and "a serious mistake."
In addition, Mr. Roth advised the incoming administration of George W. Bush and Secretary of State-designee Colin Powell to go easy on North Korea.
"I believe it would be a serious mistake to insist on progress on every front with North Korea simultaneously," he said.
He said the Clinton administration's 1994 pact with North Korea had ended its nuclear program and that talks to end its missile program should be completed. North Korea, despite its diplomatic openings to Asian neighbors, Italy, the United States and other countries, still has not moved back its huge conventional army from the border with South Korea.
Mr. Roth advised the Bush team to not demand that step be taken immediately.
The progress in defusing the North Korean hostility could lead to calls in Asia for an end to U.S. troop deployments there as Korea and then Japan would face pressure to remove foreign forces.
But Mr. Roth said the United States must resist such pressure.
"The challenge for the Bush administration is to confront directly the question of what type of reconfigured U.S. forward deployment in the Asia-Pacific region makes sense," he said, adding that he believes Japan and Korea still support the presence of U.S. troops.
Mr. Roth said dire predictions that the economic crisis that began in Thailand in 1997 would spark chaos, starvation and instability in Asia had not come true because of prompt U.S. financial intervention and "most importantly keeping our own economy growing and keeping our markets open."
While Northeast Asian countries South Korea, China and Japan are doing well economically and otherwise, Southeast Asia is turning inward.
Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines all face political or succession crises now or in the immediate future and economic growth is below China's 7 percent to 8 percent, he said.

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