News / Asia

China Presses US to Reassess Law on Taiwan Arms Sales

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, left, and China's Gen. Chen Bingde speak during a media availability at the Pentagon, Washington, May 18, 2011
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, left, and China's Gen. Chen Bingde speak during a media availability at the Pentagon, Washington, May 18, 2011

During a recent week-long visit to the United States, Chen Bingde, the chief of the general staff of China's People's Liberation Army, or PLA, pressed the United States to end arms to Taiwan.  And he said some U.S. lawmakers agree with him that it is time to rethink legislation that obligates Washington to provide Taipei with defensive weapons.  

General Chen Bingde had some pointed remarks about U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.  Speaking on Wednesday at the National Defense University here in Washington, he called such sales the main source of friction in U.S.-China relations. "If America could put herself into our shoes, appreciate and support China's stance on Taiwan and prudently address the major sensitive issues between our two nations, the Sino-U.S. state-to-state and military-to-military relations will be able to advance in the right direction in a sound, stable and continuous manner," he said.

At a Pentagon press conference later that day, Chen spoke again, when asked how China might respond if the United States fulfilled Taiwan's request for advanced F-16 fighter jets.  This time, the Chinese general targeted the Taiwan Relations Act - legislation that promotes U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

"Since I've arrived in the United States, I've had the opportunity to talk to some members of Congress and some of them told me that they also think that it is time for the United States to review this legislation," said Chen.

This is Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff: "In the United States, as in China, we follow the law.  We have a law, which is the Taiwan Relations Act, and we will continue to follow that until such time as that may change.  That's the responsibility of Congress to initiate that.  And while there may be discussions, that's not something I am aware is up in terms of a priority at this point in time," he said.

Beijing's opposition to the Taiwan Relations Act is not new, but some analysts say the discussion over how Washington should handle its relationship with Taiwan to improve ties with Beijing is growing.

Political scientist John Copper of Rhodes College in Tennessee says that until recently, China has generally has been unsuccessful in weakening the legislation.  "We've got a very different situation now, with the United States in debt with China, the United States preoccupied with wars, with debt crisis, all kinds of other issues - and not wanting to alienate China," he said.

Copper says the legislation gets little notice in Congress and that some scholars and former U.S. officials are arguing in favor of limiting relations with Taiwan to boost ties with China. "There is a lot of talk around to the effect that we should change our policy toward Taiwan -- not mentioning the Taiwan Relations Act specifically, but that's what it means," he said.

In late 2009, Bill Owens, a retired U.S. admiral and former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote in The Financial Times newspaper that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are no longer necessary, given improving relations between Beijing and Taipei.

Other articles arguing for a change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan have appeared in the influential foreign policy journal, Foreign Affairs.

China, which considers self-ruled Taiwan as a part of its territory, argues that the Taiwan Relations Act interferes in its internal affairs.  But Taiwan officials say arms sales help improve the balance of power in their negotiations with China.

Analyst John Copper says ending arms sales to Taiwan would be hotly debated in Congress and would raise questions abroad about America's commitment to democracy. "If Taiwan were simply let go by the United States, then what would we say about a mandate to push democratization elsewhere.  That would be undermined to a large extent.  And we are promoting that now, especially in the Middle East," he said.

Analyst Jonathan Pollack at the Washington-based Brookings Institution says that it seems unlikely that any push to modify the Taiwan Relations Act would gain momentum in Congress. "Clearly, the Chinese are looking for signs of restraint in what we do.  But restraint is going to be dictated by, as much as anything else, Chinese actions and policies - more than what the Congress does or does not decide to do," he said.

In addition to criticizing the Taiwan Relations Act, General Chen said that China's response to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan would depend on the nature of the weapons sold to the island.

Jonathan Pollack says that remark is significant. "It was not a kind of a categorical, any arms sales are absolutely illegitimate and unacceptable or something of that sort, which in theory he could have said, but chose not to.  So I don't know whether it indicates some flexibility, it may indicate some realism on the part of Chinese officials that some things will go through," he said.

Whether the two sides reached some kind of understanding, Pollack says, is unclear.  What is clear is that China's flexibility might be put to the test soon, if the United States approves Taiwan's request for F-16 fighter jets.  That request is under review.

You May Like

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Five-Nation Tour to Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

Secretary of state will visit Egypt, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam to discuss security issues, Iran nuclear deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs