- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2001

Shortly, the Congress will be reviewing the administration's annual arms package to Taiwan.

This year's package is especially controversial since it may well contain four of America's cutting-edge Aegis guided-missile destroyers-armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles and a special advanced Patriot missile defense system.

If these destroyers are included, it could be interpreted as placing our arms package in an offensive, rather than a defensive, mode. Moreover, because of the highly technical nature of the weapons system, its successful deployment will require a level of integration and interaction with our military, which would clearly be viewed by the the People's Republic of China as outside the bounds of the relationship with Taiwan to which we committed ourselves in the three Joint Communiques. For those reasons, we would oppose it.

Fully equipped, these destroyers can launch more than 100 missiles at one time and guide them in flight with greater accuracy than any other system afloat. These destroyers have systems so advanced they can essentially track several hundred ships, aircraft or shore batteries simultaneously. The destroyers and their payloads also can be integrated into a naval-based theater-wide anti-ballistic missile-defense system.

This is not to say we should not fully honor the Taiwan Relations Act and provide appropriate defensive weaponry. But it is to say that providing these advanced destroyers is unnecessarily provocative and counterproductive. It will result in an increased number of missiles and armaments being placed on both sides of the Strait at a time when U.S. policy should be to push for a resumption of across-the-Strait dialogue, implementation of the so called "three-links" (direct postal, sea and air service), and a peaceful solution to the one-China dilemma.

In the past 10 years, Taiwan has received well more than $20 billion worth of defense weaponry. These include: Harpoon anti-ship missiles; HAWK intercept air defense missiles; M60 tanks; air-to-air missiles for the 150 F-16 fighters sold in 1992; stinger surface-to-air missiles; Knox class frigates; Cobra helicopters; anti-submarine torpedoes; early warning aircraft; and a host of air defense radar and communication systems.

Additionally, two American aircraft carriers were dispatched to patrol the Strait following the 1996 Chinese launch of three missiles intended asa threat to Taiwan should independence be declared. These carriers conveyed the message that the United States would not countenance military aggression as a solution to the Taiwan dilemma.

Simply put, U.S. interests lie in a peacefully negotiated and mutually acceptable resolution of the Taiwan issue. We should design our policy to achieve such goals as increasing mutual trust, encouraging the resumption of a cross-Strait dialogue, discouraging provocation on both sides, and urging patience to allow political systems to mature and a peaceful solution to evolve. Clearly, force cannot and will not produce an acceptable solution.

Flexibility and constructive thinking by either side should be supported. Positive actions should be encouraged. Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian has taken great pains to hold down the rhetoric on his side and formulate a responsible approach to Beijing. Recently, Vice Premier Qian Qichen has also shown flexibility in the Mainland's position on the future of cross-Strait relations by asserting that "anything could be discussed."

The Bush administration should take advantage of this opening and translate rhetoric into reality, urging both sides to seek meaningful dialogue. The administration should strongly caution Beijing about its missile build-up, especially those missiles positioned in Fujian Province, while at the same time cautioning Taiwan to avoid provocation.

The president should make clear that if the United States does not sell the Aegis to Taiwan this year, it is because we expect that both sides will re-energize the political and diplomatic aspects of the relationship and de-emphasize the military dimension. Such an environment would give the recent positive signs of the cross-Strait dialogue a chance to mature, while maintaining peace and stability in the region.

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