- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2001

BEIJING China said yesterday it had conducted a "serious investigation" and found no basis for U.S. charges that Chinese companies helped Iraq build a fiber-optic network for its military.
Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan accused the United States of making the charges that it had assisted the Iraqi military in violation of U.N. sanctions to divert attention from the U.S. and British bombing of Iraqi military installations last month.
"The result of the investigation is that Chinese enterprises and corporations have not assisted Iraq in building the fiber-optic cable project used for air defense," Mr. Tang told reporters at a news conference touching on a wide range of diplomatic issues.
Mr. Tang also warned the Bush administration not to sell advanced weapons systems to Taiwan, and said China would sign a friendship treaty with Moscow.
Washington protested to Beijing last month after its intelligence reports found Chinese workers were helping to lay fiber-optic cables in Iraq for air-defense communications. The U.S. and British air strikes were aimed at weakening Iraq's air-defense system.
Although China initially criticized the U.S. complaints, it later said it would investigate them. Mr. Tang said all enterprises and individuals in China are made to abide by regulations prohibiting activity that violates the U.N. sanctions against Iraq.
"We in China have been very serious and responsible on this question, and we have a very good track record in the U.N.," Mr. Tang said.
On Taiwan, which China regards as a breakaway province to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary, Mr. Tang said China views the United States as one of the main obstacles to peaceful reunification.
"If the United States had not wreaked havoc at certain times, the Taiwan issue would have been resolved long ago," he said.
Earlier yesterday, China announced an increase of more than 17 percent in its own defense spending, citing "drastic changes" in the international military situation.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Washington that it was not clear whether that money would be used to modernize existing forces or to increase China's ability to challenge U.S. interests and allies in Asia.
"I'm not prepared to say this creates a new state of conflict," Mr. Powell said. "I think we have to learn more about it, we have to monitor it and we have to ask the Chinese about it when we have that opportunity."
The secretary of state said U.S. officials would be "especially sensitive" to whether the buildup presents any new dangers for Taiwan, a U.S. ally that Beijing insists is a renegade province.
Mr. Tang said the main barrier to reunification apart from U.S. interference was the refusal of Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian to recognize that there is only one China, a principle Beijing regards as the starting point for any negotiations.
The Taiwan Relations Act requires the United States to sell Taiwan arms sufficient for its defense. The Bush administration must decide by April what items it will sell.
China has mounted a diplomatic offensive to prevent sales of advanced weapons systems to its political rival. Zhou Mingwei, a senior Chinese official in charge of Taiwan affairs, visited the United States last week. Vice Prime Minister Qian Qichen will visit Washington on March 18.
Mr. Tang said arms sales would send the wrong signal to Taiwan authorities and "feed the arrogance" of independence activists on the island. Polls in Taiwan have consistently shown that a minority of residents support independence, while more prefer maintaining the status quo.
"If the U.S. side continues to fail to honor its commitment on the Taiwan question and insists on selling advanced weapons to Taiwan, including particularly the Aegis missile destroyers and the Patriot anti-missile defense system, that would send a very wrong signal to the Taiwan authorities," he said.
He stopped short of making any specific threat should the United States decide to go through with the sale.
While prospects for smooth relations with the United States remain uncertain, China's relations with Russia appear headed for a new zenith.
Mr. Tang said Chinese President Jiang Zemin would visit Moscow in July to sign a good-neighbor treaty. He said the two countries have been enjoying positive cooperation in economic, scientific and military areas, but their relationship is not targeted against any "third party."
"The relationship is a normal state-to-state relationship," he said.
Ties between China and Russia have been warming, and the two have found common ground in many areas, especially their opposition to U.S. plans to build a missile defense system.

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