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
William Ide

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

Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality

'It is not possible that women can be at par with men' incoming African Union president declares on eve of summit More

Somali Terror Suspect's Light Sentence Raises Questions

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, could have spent 15 years in prison but judge instead sentenced him to a halfway house, and a program to try to integrate him back into the community More

Video Kobani Ravaged Following Kurdish Ouster of IS Militants

Even so, hundreds of refugees sheltering in Turkey seek to return; Kurdish forces hold some back, saying fighting continues 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.
Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Goghi
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid