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Talk of the Day -- New U.S.-Taiwan-China dynamics

2013/08/22 20:50

Relations among the United States, Taiwan and China are probably entering a new stage as Beijing has offered to shift its cross-Taiwan Strait military deployment if the U.S. would stop selling arms to Taiwan, according to local media reports.

The proposed trade-off was revealed by Guan Youfei, director of the Foreign Affairs Office of China's Ministry of National Defense, during a news briefing of Chinese journalists in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, the reports said.

Guan said Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan came up with the proposal during a meeting with his U.S. counterpart Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon the previous day.

Chang also suggested that Beijing and Washington set up a joint task force to deal with relevant issues, Guan said, adding that Hagel had responded favorably by describing the proposal as a "good one."

In the next stage, Guan said, Beijing and Washington will discuss how to set up the joint panel and will talk about details such as the level of officials to be recruited and specific issues to be placed on the agenda.

"We hope to lay out a viable framework so that our two sides can continue talks on issues related to arms sales to Taiwan," Guan was quoted as saying.

His remarks, however, did not square with what a Pentagon official said Wednesday.

"I believe that the two sides, the U.S. and China, agreed to set up working groups to discuss issues of mutual concern. But I have not heard of any specific working group on arms sales to Taiwan being established as of now," said a U.S. Defense Department official.

The planned task force will focus on crime prevention, particularly in regard to arms proliferation, piracy and online crime, the official said.

Lin Chong-pin, a local defense and cross-strait affairs expert who once served as deputy defense minister and deputy mainland affairs minister, said he is not sure whether American and Chinese defense chiefs had touched on arms sales to Taiwan during their latest meeting, but it is possible that the two sides will start discussing the issue.

The following are excerpts from local media coverage of topics related to U.S. weapon sales to Taiwan:

United Daily News:

Guan's statements marked the first time that China has publicly stated its willingness to shift its military deployment against Taiwan in exchange for the termination of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

Beijing has always viewed the Taiwan issue as one of its "core interests" and regarded U.S. involvement in cross-strait affairs as "interference in internal affairs."

China's offer to adjust its missile deployment if the U.S. stops arms sales to Taiwan could be seen as "making concessions in order to gain advantages," some political analysts said.

They said the cross-strait military balance is tilted in Beijing's favor. If the United States stops selling arms to Taiwan, Taipei-Washington relations will decline, which would give China more chips to control the direction of cross-strait ties. (Aug. 22, 2013).

Liberty Times:

Chen Shih-ming, a National Taiwan University associate professor, said Beijing's proposal is part of its efforts to seek a fundamental solution to the cross-strait issue.

It remains to be seen if the U.S. would back off its security commitment to Taiwan in pursuit of its own strategic interests, he said.

"We should seriously face up to the issue of whether the Pentagon would indeed form a task force with the Chinese defense ministry to discuss arms sales to Taiwan," Chen said.

If that happens, it would mean a fundamental change in U.S. policy toward weapon deals with Taiwan, he said.

The U.S. government issued "Six Assurances" in 1982, in which it promised not to hold prior consultation with China regarding arms sales to Taiwan, he noted.

Meanwhile, Huang chieh-cheng, a Tamkang University assistant professor, suggested that Taiwan's government make arrangements for senior defense officials to visit the United States to gain a better understanding of Washington's attitude toward Beijing's latest offer. (Aug. 22, 2013).

(By Sofia Wu)enditem/ pc