- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2005

China has been pressing Haiti to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan as a condition to approving a lengthy extension of the U.N. peacekeeping force in the Caribbean nation, according to a senior Bush administration official.

The official said the back-channel demand is the reason China blocked last April what had been expected to be a routine extension vote by the U.N. Security Council. China is one of five nations with permanent seats on the council and, like all such members, can veto any resolution.

It agreed only to a 24-day initial extension and is willing to vote for six more months, although U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has requested a routine one-year extension.

The senior U.S. official, who asked not to be named, said China’s motive is to put pressure on Haiti to cease diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Haiti is one of only 26 countries that maintain such ties.

As it expands its military’s global reach, China has sought inroads in the Caribbean and Latin America and has forged closer ties with two U.S. adversaries, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

China last year won membership in the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), marking the first time Beijing has participated in a peacekeeping force in the Western Hemisphere.

“Here is China using its position in Haiti to exact pressure,” the administration official said. The Unites States is pledged to protect Taiwan, but does not officially recognize Taipei as it follows a “one China” policy.

The U.N. established the 8,000-troop mission following the February 2004 resignation of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Haiti’s ambassador to the United Nations did not return telephone calls this week seeking comment. The Chinese embassy spokesman in Washington also did not return calls.

A spokesperson for the China’s U.N. mission said it favors a six-month extension.

“China thinks the extension should be conducive to the stability and peace in the country,” said Yan Jarong, a first secretary at Beijing’s U.N. mission. “As a permanent member of the council we view this mainly through how to be conducive to peace and stability.”

The Pentagon is increasingly worried about China’s ambitions in the hemisphere. Some officials opposed letting China join the Haiti mission, but the State Department filed no objections with the U.N., the senior official said.

In April, Roger Pardo-Maurer, the Pentagon’s top Latin America analyst, warned nations in the region to be wary of Chinese advances.

“We need to be alert to rapidly advancing Chinese capabilities, particularly in the fields of intelligence, communications and cyber-warfare, and their possible application in the region,” Mr. Pardo-Maurer told the House International Relations subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. “We would encourage other nations in the hemisphere to take a close look at how such activities could possibly be used against them or the United States.”

Haitian Prime Minster Gerard Latortue was at the United Nations yesterday to urge the Security Council to increase the peacekeeping force.

“Without MINUSTAH, I’m telling you things would have been much more difficult in Haiti,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse.

Betsy Pisik contributed to this report.

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