- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 17, 2002

From combined dispatches
BEIJING China yesterday expressed "strong indignation and resolute opposition" to growing U.S.-Taiwan military contacts, summoning the U.S. ambassador to demand that Washington reverse course on ties with the island.
Using its strongest language against the United States in months, Beijing also accused Washington of "nuclear blackmail."
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told U.S. Ambassador Clark T. Randt Jr. that it is "crucial to observe the attitude of the U.S. side," China Central Television reported in its main evening news broadcast.
"We hope the United States makes a clear and decisive decision," it quoted Mr. Li as saying.
Mr. Li criticized the United States for permitting Taiwan's defense minister, Tang Yiau-ming, to attend a private defense convention this month in St. Petersburg, Fla. the first time a Taiwanese defense minister has visited the United States since the latter cut ties with Taiwan in 1979 in order to recognize Beijing's sovereignty.
Further angering China, Mr. Tang discussed Taiwan's defense needs in private meetings on the conference's sidelines with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James A. Kelly.
The statement was the latest in a series of protests underscoring the Chinese government's deep unease over what it perceives as strengthened U.S. support for Taiwan. Beijing regards Taiwan as a rebel province that must be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Beijing has issued a standing threat to invade the island if Taiwan declares independence or drags its feet indefinitely on reunification talks.
Additionally, China always protests angrily when a senior Taiwan official is allowed into the United States.
"The Chinese government and people express their strong indignation and resolute opposition to acts that interfere in China's internal affairs and undermine China-U.S. relations," Mr. Li said.
The television report said Mr. Li protested strongly at a U.S. defense policy review reported to describe contingency plans to aim nuclear weapons at China, among several other countries.
"China wants to make it very clear that China will never yield to foreign threats, including nuclear blackmail," the television report quoted Mr. Li as telling Mr. Randt.
"The days when China could be bullied are gone forever," he said.
Threats would "simply increase the determination of the Chinese people to safeguard their sovereignty," he added.
On Wednesday, an official Chinese newspaper accused Washington of using the policy review as a pretext to resume nuclear tests and develop new nuclear arms to extend its military dominance in the world.
Mr. Li's language was the strongest China has used against the United States in many months and stood out sharply against the background of improved ties since Beijing backed the U.S. war on terrorism.
Mr. Li accused Washington of breaching three joint communiques, which paved the way for a normalization of ties, by offering Taiwan advanced weapons.
"The United States must abandon the idea of Taiwan as an unsinkable aircraft carrier," he was quoted as saying.
"Taiwan has been a burden on the U.S. shoulders for more than half a century. We don't see any good in the U.S. continuing to shoulder that burden," he said. "It will simply drop a stone on its own toes."
In the three communiques, Washington recognized Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan, promised to reduce arms sales to the island gradually and pledged to maintain unofficial links to Taipei.
President Bush reaffirmed that recognition of Chinese sovereignty during a visit to Beijing last month, but also said Washington would honor its commitment to protect Taiwan in the face of attack or provocation.
Last year, Mr. Bush said he would do "whatever it took" to help Taiwan repel any Chinese invasion.


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