Tuesday, June 15, 2004

A congressional commission yesterday called on the Bush administration to review the so-called “one-China” policy that has guided U.S. ties with Beijing since 1972 and isolated a U.S. ally in the Republic of China (Taiwan).

The recommendation by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission is likely to upset China, which has threatened to use force to reunite the island with the mainland if the Taipei government declares formal independence.

The commission also said in its annual report released yesterday that the number of short-range Chinese missiles aimed at Taiwan has increased to as many as 550.

The report said Beijing is continuing to arm Iran, Pakistan and North Korea with materials for weapons of mass destruction and missiles.

The bipartisan commission recommended that Congress as well as the Bush administration “conduct a fresh assessment of the one-China policy, given the changing realities in China and Taiwan.”

The policy review should study the “continued viability” of not recognizing Taiwan as a separate country and look into whether the United States needs to improve defense support for Taiwan.

The report said Taiwan has been isolated politically and economically by Beijing.

The 11-member commission was set up under a 2000 law and includes China specialists picked by Republican and Democratic congressional leaders.

Commission officials said a key recommendation for the policy review is for Congress to ask that the administration reveal all secret “formal understandings” made with China since 1972.

According to administration officials, the documents sought by the commission cover three periods during the Nixon, Carter and Reagan administrations and are expected to show concessions made to win Chinese support for normalized relations.

The material includes details on the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Taiwan in 1974, limits on arms capabilities sold to Taiwan, an end to U.S. overflights and warship patrols near China, and a ban on Taiwan visits by senior U.S. officers, said an official close to the issue.

The records also contain details on China’s demand that the United States end covert support to Tibetans seeking independence, the official said.

Reagan administration-era documents are said to include a promise to further limit weapons sold to Taiwan and a letter stating that a Chinese military buildup would lead the United States to abrogate earlier agreements with Beijing on Taiwan.

U.S. policy toward China is based on three joint communiques signed in 1972, 1979 and 1982. The one-China policy states that Beijing’s government is the sole ruler of China as well as Taiwan, which became the last base for Chinese nationalist forces that fled the mainland during the 1949 civil war.

The United States initially recognized Taiwan’s government as the Republic of China, but downgraded formal ties in 1979 when diplomatic relations were shifted to communist China.

Commission Chairman Roger W. Robinson Jr., a national security aide in the Reagan White House, said U.S. officials made too many concessions to China on economic issues to win support for talks with North Korea and for the war on terrorism.

“We don’t think there should be these big-ticket trade-offs,” he said. “We shouldn’t avert our eyes to blatantly unfair trade practices just because we want to advance the ball down the court a little on North Korea.”

The report said China’s expanding economy, which ran up a $124 billion trade surplus with the United States last year, presents major strategic problems. Beijing manipulates its currency, subsidizes favored industries and has failed to carry out many of the market-opening reforms it promised when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, the report said.

Chinese state-owned firms have begun tapping international credit markets without disclosing basic financial details or possible links to the People’s Liberation Army or Chinese weapons makers.

• David R. Sands contributed to this report.

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