- The Washington Times - Friday, May 4, 2001

The Bush administration has put Beijing on notice. Rhetorical contortions, national security breaches and compromising submissiveness appear to be policies of the past.

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he will personally scrutinize proposed bilateral military contacts with China. The Washington Times reported that the new review policy will probably prompt the Pentagon to turn down some military contacts that give China too much insight on U.S. military know-how. The announcement of this new policy was unfortunately marred by the leak of a memo which incorrectly stated Mr. Rumsfeld´s position regarding military contacts, but the new review remains long overdue, nevertheless.

Even more important, though, was President George W. Bush´s announcement Tuesday that he was prepared to abandon the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty to build a comprehensive missile defense system. China yesterday blasted Mr. Bush´s decision, which comes as no surprise. Mr. Bush´s recent statement that the United States would do "whatever it takes" to protect Taiwan from a potential military threat from China was a departure from the minced words and ambiguity touted as strategy by the previous administration.

More immediately, the Bush administration must decide how to get its spy plane back to the United States. The plane collided with a Chinese jet fighter last month and was forced to make an emergency landing on Hainan Island. China´s decision to allow a team of U.S. technicians to enter the plane on Wednesday clearly disproves the contentions of the doomsayers in the wake of Mr. Bush´s protective statements towards Taiwan. While Beijing did nothing more than comply with international law in allowing the U.S. team to board the plane, the move was significant, given China´s characteristic disregard for international law particularly lately.

Chinese military officials, however, made sure not all was sweetness and light yesterday when they refused to give U.S. technicians the electric power to complete a damage check of the plane. And according to U.S. officials, China has seized large amounts of classified documents from the downed aircraft, comprising a major breach of U.S. intelligence, Bill Gertz of The Washington Times has reported. The Chinese have indicated they believe they will be receiving a bribe in exchange for the plane, although the White House has said it won´t make any payment to Beijing that exceeds the costs of recovering the U.S. plane.

The White House must stick to that position, since a change in the American approach towards China comes just in time. The leadership in Beijing may not like it much, but they do seem to respect it at least if the case of the U.S. surveillance plane is any indication.

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