Monday, March 19, 2007

Threat from China

Taiwan’s new envoy to the United States, expected in Washington next month, is warning of increased threats from communist China as his government tries to pursue policies to normalize relations with its huge neighbor.

Joseph Wu, now chairman of the government’s Mainland Affairs Council, raised the alarm about China’s military buildup and diplomatic offensive yesterday in a press interview and earlier in his New Year’s message.

“This is a danger to Taiwan, and the trend we see is that this danger is getting bigger and bigger,” he told the Reuters news agency in an interview from Taipei, capital of the Republic of China (Taiwan).

China is spending between $50 billion and $70 billion a year on its military, according to various U.S. specialists and the Defense Department. It also has 700 to 800 missiles aimed at Taiwan. China considers Taiwan a renegade province and has threatened to attack if Taiwan declares independence. Taiwan has functioned as a de facto nation since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

China has also been increasing economic and political pressure on many smaller nations to drop recognition of Taiwan.

“On the diplomatic front, China’s foreign relations power is getting stronger and stronger,” Mr. Wu said.

“Taiwan has its advantages,” he added. “Taiwan is a democratic country, and China is not a democratic country. They haven’t changed anything. It’s even getting worse.”

In his New Year’s address, Mr. Wu complained of China’s new “anti-separation” law, which Beijing declared in an attempt to block any move by Taiwan toward independence.

“Under the shadow of the anti-separation law, China has not only continued to escalate its military deployment against Taiwan but has also intensified its suppression against Taiwan in the international area, using every conceivable means,” Mr. Wu said.

Nevertheless, he said, Taiwan has tried to reach out to China to “actively seek … dialogue and negotiations under the principles of sovereignty, parity, democracy and peace.” Taiwan is trying to encourage more Chinese tourism and commercial activities.

Mr. Wu, 53, will serve as Taiwan’s chief envoy to the United States when he takes over the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), headquartered in Washington and with branches in 11 other U.S. cities. He will replace David Lee, who will assume similar duties in Canada.

TECRO envoys have been virtual ambassadors to the United States since the Carter administration recognized mainland China and cut formal ties with Taiwan. However, the Taiwan Relations Act obligates the United States to defend Taiwan.

Holbrooke’s warning

Former U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke yesterday warned of renewed violence in Kosovo if Russia exercises its veto when the United Nations considers a plan to grant independence to the ethnic-Albanian province of Serbia.

“If the Russians delay or dilute or veto it, then I’m afraid the long pent-up desire of the Albanians in Kosovo for a rapid move towards independence will explode into violence,” Mr. Holbrooke told reporters in Brussels, where he attended a meeting of the Trilateral Commission of international business executives and foreign policy specialists.

Mr. Holbrooke, a former ambassador to the United Nations, is worried that Russia will use its veto in the U.N. Security Council when it debates a plan by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who chaired an international commission on Kosovo.

“The Russians should be aware of the consequences of their actions in New York,” said Mr. Holbrooke, who brokered the 1995 peace plan that ended Serbia’s offensive in Bosnia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has supported Serbian opposition to independence for Kosovo, which Serbs consider a historic part of their country, but has not publicly threatened a veto.

In 1999, NATO mounted an air war to stop Serbian assaults against Albanian rebels.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@

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