Wall Street Journal
U.S.-China Standoff Simmers,
Backers Push Their Cause
Staff Reporters of THE WALL
Taiwan -- The continuing standoff
between Washington and Beijing over the fate of a U.S. surveillance
plane and its crew held on Chinese soil is providing a windfall
for a hitherto low-profile party: Taiwan.
11-day diplomatic standoff is turning into a not-so subtle
selling point for Taiwan-linked lobbyists who want the U.S.
to sell the island advanced weapons, a move vehemently opposed
by China. While Taiwan's government has assiduously stayed
out of the fracas between its chief ally and its biggest
rival, its allies and lobbyists in Washington are beginning
to make their voices heard, and are likely to pump up the
volume if the standoff isn't resolved quickly.
on Wednesday said it will release the crew of the U.S. spy
plane as soon as travel arrangements are worked out. (See
article. ) "It really makes our case easier,"
says Echo Lin, director of the Washington office of the
Formosan Association for Public Affairs, a Taiwanese-American
organization with close ties to Taiwan's ruling party. The
group currently is lobbying Congress to support the sale
of destroyers equipped with advanced Aegis antimissile radar.
"Members of Congress are more aware of the hostility
from the Chinese side."
Lin's grassroots group is but one member of a broad pro-Taiwan
contingent that has a common aim of keeping Taiwan's concerns
high on the agenda in Washington, even after the Hainan
Island dispute is resolved. When the wealthy Kuomintang
ruled Taiwan, the island's allies spent
heavily on lobbying -- about US$7 million in 1999, according
to U.S. Justice Department data. That flow appears not to
have abated under the less-wealthy Democratic Progressive
Party, which took power last May.
of the money for Taiwan's cause has come from groups without
formal ties to the island's government. The Taipei-based
Studies Institute, for example, runs a Web site dedicated
to promoting the sale of the Aegis antimissile system. The
institute was founded by Lin Cheng-yi, a bank chairman
and longtime friend of Taiwan
President Chen Shui-bian. Mr. Lin raised funds from his
friends to support the institute. Last July, it hired lobbying
firm Cassidy & Associates for a one-year contract valued
at US$2 million.
Taipei remains above the fray. President Chen expressed
hope Monday that the diplomatic dispute wouldn't influence
a U.S. decision scheduled this month on weapons sales to
the island. He noted that the impasse "should be delinked
from U.S. arms sales."
is the fervent wish of many China watchers, who are concerned
that intemperate outbursts from Taiwan's corner could upset
the delicate negotiations between the U.S. and China for
the release of the crew. Beijing regards Taiwan as breakaway province and
is highly suspicious of Mr. Chen's administration, which
it suspects of harboring independence aspirations. "The
best thing Taiwan can do is stay very low key,"
says James Lilley, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute
in Washington and a former U.S. ambassador to Beijing.
Taiwan advocates like Ms. Lin are
less convinced of the virtues of silence. For now, with
the U.S. Congress on holiday and negotiations over the fate
of the air crew held on Hainan Island continuing, FAPA has
been careful not to link the two issues -- to a point. "We
don't want to use this to bash China," says Ms. Lin,
"but we can use it to educate" people about China's
military threat to Taiwan.
Congress returns from its recess on April 24, and the longer
the Hainan crisis drags on, the more potential supporters
gains. Republican Sen. Craig Thomas, who chairs a subcommittee
on Asian affairs and who previously opposed the sale of
Aegis, has indicated he might change his mind.
the decision on the arms sale lies with the administration,
increasing support in Congress, especially from influential
lawmakers like Sen. Thomas, reflects growing momentum in
may gain more time to garner support for Taiwan.
According to Joseph Wu, a professor at National Chengchi
University in Taipei, the Bush administration may spread
out its decisions over sensitive arms sales over a period
Congress went into recess, Taiwan's allies lobbied heavily
for U.S. representatives to send a letter on Apr. 3 to President
George W. Bush supporting the Aegis sale. FAPA mobilized
about 9,000 letters to U.S. lawmakers for that effort, which
paid off with 83 representatives signing the letter.
group is now gearing up to support a House of Representatives
resolution sponsored by Rep. Robert Andrews, a Democrat,
which contains tougher, potentially inflammatory language
regarding antimissile defense. A draft of that resolution
says that Taiwan
has requested from the U.S. "coverage under the proposed
Theater Missile Defense System." The Pentagon has repeatedly
stated that an Aegis system isn't part of a proposed theater
missile system, a loosely conceived U.S. plan to build a
shield to protect against missile attacks from so-called
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