CHINA-TAIWAN RELATIONS (Senate - January 26, 1996)

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Mr. THOMAS. Mr. President, I rise today as the chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs to express my concern at recent reports in the domestic and foreign media that the Government of the People's Republic of China has formulated plans for a military invasion or blockade of Taiwan.

These reports surfaced first a month or two ago in Hong Kong papers known to be sympathetic to Beijing--known, in fact, to be instruments of the Chinese Government--such as Ta Kung Pao. It was further reported in the colony's more mainstream papers, including a series of reports in the Eastern Express. Clearly, the initial discovery of this information was not the result of investigative reporting on the part of these papers. Rather, it shows all the signs of having been an organized leak on the part of the Beijing Government. The same information has been relayed to us through high-level channels in the People's Republic of China Government and military.

The purpose of the leak appears to me to be three-fold. First, it must be viewed in light of the present political situation in the People's Republic of China. As my colleagues know, while President Jiang Zemin is substantially in control of the Government as the successor to Deng Xiaoping, the succession is far from being settled with absolute finality. As a result, the leadership has been careful to court the conservative elements of the power structure: the People's Liberation Army [PLA]. The PLA, like armies everywhere, tends to be very nationalistic, and the reacquisition of Taiwan is at the top of its wish-list. Consequently, the People's Republic of China leadership has taken a more hardline approach to the Taiwan question than might usually be expected.

Second, many observers--and the Taiwanese officials with whom I have spoken--believe that the leaked information is designed to intimidate the Taiwanese people and their elected officials. The People's Republic of China believes that over the last year the Government of Taiwan, led by President Lee Teng-hui, has been increasing its attempts to raise Taiwan's status in the international arena. They cite increased diplomatic initiatives in Central America and Africa, the visits of President Lee and other high-level officials to countries such as the United States, Canada, and the Czech Republic last summer, and moves to join the U.N. and other international organizations.

The People's Republic of China apparently regards these efforts as an affront to their one-China policy, and a move by Taipei to create two Chinas or one China, one Taiwan. In an effort to stem this rising tide, Beijing has resorted to a number of reactions. The People's Republic of China conducted a series of provocative air-to-air missile tests from July 21 to 26 in an area only 60 kilometers north of Taiwan's Pengchiayu Island. The missiles fired consisted mainly of Dongfeng-31 ICBM's and M-class short-range tactical missiles. At the same time, the PLA mobilized forces in coastal Fujian Province and moved a number of Jian-8 aircraft to the coast. Following those tests, the PLA conducted a second round of similar maneuvers between August 15 and 25. In conjunction with these tests, Taiwan intelligence reported the movement of a number of F-7 and F-8 long-range bombers and aircraft to bases within 250 nautical miles of Taiwan. There have also been reports that the People's Liberation Army-Air Force has stepped up practicing precision bombing and missile targeting.

It was no accident that the tests were so close to Taiwanese territory, or that they coincided with Taiwan's regional elections. The message to Taiwan was clear: `continue down this road, continue to move forward toward a complete democracy, and we are more than capable of reacquiring you forcibly.' This message is similarly timed; it comes very close to Taiwan's first fully democratic elections, scheduled to be held in March.

Third, it appears that the information was intended to send a signal to us in Congress, as well as the administration, that we should rein in our support for Taiwan and its elected leaders, and reconsider any thought of supplying Taiwan with defensive weapons or similar support. It will not surprise anyone here that Congress has been supportive of Taiwan and its people. Since 1949, the citizens of Taiwan have made amazing strides in developing their country both economically and politically. Taiwan has become the world's ninth largest economy; moreover, it has moved from a military authoritarian government to oligarchy to full participatory democracy. That move will be capped in March by the first democratic election of the country's President. Given this progress, I know that many Members of Congress, and the American people, cannot help but feel a bond with the people of that island. It is that bond that worries the People's Republic of China, and which it seeks to stem.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, through two of its spokesmen, Shen Guofang and Chen Jian, issued a somewhat vague denial of the reports. I would like to take that denial at face value, and indeed the reaction in the military and intelligence circles here has been that the entire issue may be somewhat overblown. I would stress that there is no concrete proof of the allegations but for the news reports. However, as we have seen in the past, sometimes the denials of the Ministry do not match the Government's actions. Just in the unlikely event that this is the case, I'd like to make my position as the chairman of the subcommittee of jurisdiction clear.

I will agree, to a point, with Beijing's assertions that any eventual reunification of the People's Republic of China and Taiwan is an internal affair for the Chinese people in which other countries should not interfere. But I cannot stress strongly enough my feeling that it is not the People's Republic of China's internal affair alone; it is one for Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Straits to decide. There are 27 million people in Taiwan who have made clear their desire to live in a free and democratic society. It is consequently not for the People's Republic of China, under the guise of reuniting the motherland to unilaterally dictate the terms, timing, or conditions of that reunification.

The People's Republic of China should make no mistake; I strongly believe that any attempt to establish a military or economic blockade of Taiwan, or other such military threat, will be met with by the most resolute condemnation and reaction on the part of the United States, and indeed the rest of the community of nations. It is my view that actions such as the missile tests and threat of military force will have the exact opposite of their desired outcome. As we have seen, the people of Taiwan did not let themselves be intimidated at the polls by the launching of Dongfeng missiles. I believe that such threats can only serve to make them more resolute in their goals.

Similarly, it is my opinion that such actions can only backfire in regards to their intended effect on the United States. The People's Republic of China would do well to remember the provisions of the joint United States-People's Republic of China communiques, and more importantly of the Taiwan Relations Act. We have stated repeatedly that we expect the future of Taiwan to be settled by peaceful means, and that we consider any move to settle it by other than peaceful means to `be a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States.' The Taiwan Relations Act, and the communiques, safeguard our right to sell Taiwan weapons to enable it to protect itself from aggression. If the People's Republic of China continues to threaten Taiwan and its security, then it is not out of the realm of possibility that in reaction the amount and frequency of those arms sales might increase.

In closing Mr. President, while I believe that the reports--especially that in the New York Times--have tended toward the alarmist, I feel it is very important that the People's Republic of China know exactly where I stand on this issue. That is why I have come to the floor today. And similarly, toward that end I call upon the administration to relay our position to Beijing in the clearest and most unequivocal terms.

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