- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2002

When President Bush arrives in China this week, there'll be three issues pleading for his attention: (1) religious freedom for the Chinese people, (2) the Peoples Liberation Army's intimidation of Taiwan and (3) China's cooperation with what the president has accurately called the "axis of evil."

It has become a custom for the Chinese leaders, just prior to an American president's visit, to take long-overdue actions and here they go again: the Beijing government released Hong Kong businessman Lai Guangqiang after having jailed him for "smuggling" Bibles into China. This fakery pretending that Communist China might, at long last, be relenting on its religious persecution did lead a few critics to hope the Beijing regime was at last getting set to adopt a more permissive approach.

Such hopes were of course false it was merely fantasy land all over again. Indeed, several explosive documents came forth detailing the Chinese government's strategy to crush religion in China. A document dated October 2001 blew the cover of the highest levels of the Chinese government. Another document exposed tactics such as monitoring, infiltration, outright force and coercion of church members by spies planted in the congregations.

This issue is close to President Bush's heart but has fallen into a favorite trap of U.S. diplomats e.g., the sad routine of having a "dialogue" with the Chinese government.

President Bush simply must speak directly to the Chinese people about religious liberty and its benefits to humanity. Business as usual with the Chinese government must be unthinkable unless and until Beijing allows true religious freedom by, for just one of many examples, allowing Vatican-approved Catholic churches, bishops and priests in China to hold services.

Beijing's double talk about religious freedom is highly instructive when one contemplates China's phony charm regarding Taiwan. U.S. editorial writers promptly gushed approval of China's softer, new line on Taiwan.

It is, of course, obvious that Beijing's first-ever offer to meet with officials from Taiwan's current ruling party (provided the Taiwanese accept the one-China policy) is the same old bait and switch. Knowing that Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian is not about to take this bait, Beijing hopes to peel away any members of Mr. Chen's party a continuation of what was done with Taiwan's previous ruling party.

Clearly, mere tactical political maneuvers must neither mislead, let alone interest, the United States. What is of interest must be Beijing's strategic intentions regarding Taiwan. Every effort should be made to prevent Beijing's achieving them. These key questions cry out for answers: Has Beijing renounced the use of force against Taiwan? Has Beijing reversed its military buildup, so clearly aimed at Taiwan?

Of course not. Until and unless the answers are demonstrably honest in the affirmative, the United States must remain steadfast about our intent to defend Taiwan. This cannot be achieved through the banalities of meaningless communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act only forceful reminders of President Bush's clear pledge last spring can produce results.

This, coupled with a forceful joint U.S.-Taiwan military posture, will help create deterrence in the Taiwan Strait not maintaining the U.S. "relationship" with the communists in Beijing.

President Bush must confront China's rampant proliferation of dangerous weapons to the "axis of evil." The president in his State of the Union address properly linked terrorism and proliferation. And that link is why the president warned: "States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world."

Thus the axis of evil includes not just Iran, Iraq and North Korea, it also includes unspecified other countries supporting them. All three of the regimes identified by President Bush are major recipients of China's deadly exports.

For example, the administration has directed sanctions at three Chinese entities for chemical weapons-related shipments to Iran. In its most recent report to Congress, the Central Intelligence Agency stated that it is "aware of some interactions between Chinese and Iranian entities that have raised questions about its no-new-nuclear cooperation pledge" regarding Iran.

The CIA further noted that Chinese firms have provided missile-related items and assistance to Iran and North Korea. Last year, it was disclosed that the Chinese were installing a fiber optic cable system for use in Iraq's air defense system which the U.S. in turn bombed. This leaves the inescapable question: Is Communist China given these examples one of the terrorist allies of the "axis of evil" and, hence, part of it? Or is China part of the anti-terror, anti-axis coalition?

Is not the answer obvious? As long as there is evidence that Chinese shipments of dangerous materials to the axis (or any terrorist regime, for that matter) continue, then how can China be considered anything but part of the axis?

One can only hope, as some have speculated, that September 11 forced the Chinese regime to rethink its priorities and align itself with the United States.

As President Bush might say, we know their true nature, so getting an answer to this question belongs on the president's priority list this week.

Jesse Helms of North Carolina is the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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