Visiting Chinese to Urge
Bush Not to Sell Arms to Taiwan
By Craig S. Smith
New York Times, March
SHANGHAI, March 11 ?Deputy
Premier Qian Qichen, the highest- ranking Chinese official
to visit Washington in two years, is expected to urge President
Bush next week not to sell more advanced weapons to Taiwan.
Mr. Qian, a former foreign
minister, continues to play a key role in Taiwan policy
and will be visiting just weeks before Mr. Bush must decide
which weapons the United States will sell Taiwan this year.
Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations
Act, the United States is obligated to provide Taiwan with
equipment to defend itself, and in April the two sides conclude
their annual arms sales talks, one of the most fractious
issues in Chinese-American relations.
Beijing is concerned that Mr.
Bush will take a more aggressive stance than his predecessor,
and is bothered by Mr. Bush's rhetorical shift toward describing
China as a "strategic competitor," rather than
the "strategic partner" seen by the Clinton administration.
Perry Link, a China scholar
at Princeton University, said: "Qian is a skilled diplomat
and smooth talker and wants, I think, to smooth things out
with the new Bush people, try to get them as far as possible
back to where the Chinese government had the Clinton people,
both in general- viewing China as a partner more than an
adversary- and on the particular issue of arms sales to
Last year, President Clinton
deferred making a decision on selling Taiwan Arleigh Burke-class
destroyers equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles and Aegis
But Taiwan's request for the
ships remains on the table. The Aegis system could someday
be adapted for use in the kind of naval theater missile
defense which Mr. Bush supports but China vehemently opposes.
Taiwan has indicated that it
may also ask the administration to sell it four Kidd-class
guided-missile destroyers, which are less powerful than
the Arleigh Burke ships but would nonetheless be the largest
and most powerful in Taiwan's Navy.
Either class of ships would
represent the most significant weapons transfer by the United
States to Taiwan since Mr. Bush's father sold it 150 advanced
F-16 fighter aircraft in 1992. China charged that the sale
breached a 1982 joint communiqué in which Washington vowed
not to increase the quantity or quality of arms sold to
Mr. Qian was quoted Friday
by the state-run, English-language China Daily as saying
the Taiwan issue was "not only a problem left over
by China's civil war, it is also the result of U.S. military
intervention as the United States has kept selling advanced
weapons to Taiwan."
Those comments followed a warning
on Tuesday by Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan that the United
States should recognize the "serious dangers involved"
in providing more weapons to Taiwan.
Mr. Qian is likely to emphasize
that a relaxation of tensions between China and Taiwan could
be undone by more arms sales.
Beijing has supported a series
of low-level official contacts with Taiwan politicians.
Direct shipping links have also begun with the Taiwan islands
of Quemoy and Matsu.
Mr. Qian has made overtures
to Taiwan by softening Beijing's language on its terms for
"What we adhere to is
one China that embraces the mainland and Taiwan," China
Daily quoted him as saying on Friday. "We understand
the aspirations of Taiwan compatriots to maintain the status
Mr. Qian said he would also
discuss with American officials China's opposition to the
proposed development of a missile defense system.
The United States will be eager
to hear how China proposes to spend its increased military
budget. Beijing announced last week that military spending
would rise 17.7 percent this year, compared with a 12 percent
increase last year.
Mr. Qian's five-day visit to
Washington and New York will begin March 18. His visit coincides
with the March 19 session of the United Nations Human Rights
Commission in Geneva, where Washington is expected to support
a motion condemning China's abuses of human rights.
He is scheduled to see Mr.
Bush on March 22, and is likely to ask him if he will visit
China for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to
be held in Shanghai in October.