- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2001

The Pentagon confirmed for the first time yesterday that it holds regular secret talks with Republic of China military officials to discuss "the defense of Taiwan."
U.S. defense officials have met seven times since 1997 with Taiwan's military officers, Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, Pentagon spokesman, told reporters. It was the first time the talks were acknowledged publicly.
Other defense officials said the next round of U.S.-Taiwan defense talks began yesterday at a military facility in Monterey, Calif.
"We do frequently meet with representatives of the Taiwan military, in accordance with the terms of the Taiwan Relations Act, again to discuss issues of interaction and means by which to provide for the defense of Taiwan," Adm. Quigley said.
"But by the same token, as a policy issue, we do not typically provide any details of those meetings," he said, declining to comment when asked if there would be a meeting in California this week.
The admiral made the comments in response to a report in Wednesday's editions of The Washington Times quoting defense officials who said the next set of Taiwan military talks would begin this week.
The Monterey talks were started in 1997 as part of an initiative by Curt Campbell, the deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia.
However, defense officials said the subject of the talks and the level of representation were restricted by Clinton administration officials to avoid offending Beijing, which views Taiwan as a breakaway province and opposes U.S. support for Taiwan's military.
The Pentagon also is prohibited from sending any officers to Taiwan above the rank of colonel or Navy captain, and civilian officials who visit must be low-ranking government representatives.
According to defense officials, Fred Smith, the outgoing deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia, is heading the U.S. delegation.
One official said the two delegations, each consisting of 18 military and civilian officials, are not permitted to discuss Taiwan's arms-sales requests or in-depth planning for joint military operations.
Adm. Quigley said the meetings with the Taiwanese are not held on a set schedule. "It is not that regular," he said. "But it's a constant dialogue back and forth between the United States and Taiwan."
The talks took on new meaning after President Bush said in a television interview in May that the United States would do "whatever it took" to defend Taiwan from a mainland attack. The remark clarified earlier U.S. policy that indicated the United States might not defend the island under some circumstances.
Asked whether the Pentagon should discuss "interoperability" issues with Taiwan's military in light of the president's remarks, Adm. Quigley said: "Well, we will do our best to carry out the directions of the commander in chief, whatever the circumstances might be.
"You can have a philosophical debate till sundown as to what might be the appropriate way of going about doing that, but there are very specific and sensitive particular details that are contained in the Taiwan Relations Act. We comply with those, no more, no less."
China has threatened to use force to reunite the island with the mainland and has deployed more than 300 missiles within range of the island over the past five years.
The Pentagon announced yesterday that it will sell Taiwan a joint tactical communications system used by U.S. forces. The communications system would help Taiwan conduct joint operations with U.S. forces in a conflict, defense officials said.

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