- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2003

The ideological, military and political face-off between Beijing and Taipei is taking place not across the Taiwan Straits, but in Washington, says a senior Taiwanese official responsible for China policy.

“The battlefield is in Washington, not across the Taiwan Straits,” said Alexander Chieh-cheng Huang, vice chairman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council.

“Economic well-being is a common goal and a military conflict would destroy any efforts to move forward. Taiwan is not afraid of Beijing’s tactics and hostility, but Taiwan is vulnerable if Washington sides with Beijing. The battleground is here,” Mr. Huang said in an interview this week.

In Washington to attend an academic conference, Mr. Huang said he did not make any official government visits during his stay, but attended several unofficial dinners and coffees with members of Congress and the Bush administration, where he renewed old acquaintances.

Mr. Huang, who is a leading authority on mainland China’s military, spent 15 years in Washington, first as the military specialist with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, Taiwan’s de facto embassy.

He also taught at the University of Maryland and served as a fellow at the Brookings Institution and with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Republic of China (Taiwan) President Chen Shui-bian appointed Mr. Huang to his current position in June.

Mr. Huang said his expertise on China’s People’s Liberation Army was not meant to “send a signal” to anyone. He said he was appointed because he was at home in Washington, and his government felt he could effectively communicate its position inside the Beltway.

“There are 450 missiles pointed at us on an hourly basis and Taiwan could be decapitated in minutes by one-tenth of those missiles,” he said. But he does not think China will use the missiles or repeat the belligerent war games that threatened Taiwan during its 1996 elections.

“They don’t have to use their gunboats. Beijing’s tactic is to coerce Taiwan into believing Washington has sided with [Beijing],” he said.

Mr. Huang said Taiwan is an important ally for the United States in the war on terrorism.

He said Taiwan is sharing security and intelligence information and noted it “sits at a choke point” of Asian shipping lanes and can therefore provide surveillance and intelligence if ships are suspected of moving arms or other contraband to terrorist organizations in Asia or the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Taiwan failed yesterday in its 11th annual bid to get a seat at the United Nations, a move that has been blocked every year since 1993 by archrival China and its allies.

After hearing from representatives of more than 90 nations, a General Assembly committee rejected a bid for the question of U.N. membership for Taiwan to be added to the agenda for the assembly’s 58th annual session, which opened Tuesday.

The assembly’s General Committee, a panel on which all 191 U.N. members have a voice, made the decision by consensus with no formal vote.

Earlier Mr. Huang said the issue of Taiwan’s membership was raised not because Taipei had hopes of success but as an “annual celebration of democracy.”

China, which considers Taiwan a rebel province, objects to Taiwan’s membership in global organizations.

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