China expresses outrage over jets' sale to Taiwan Beijing warns ties with U.S. will suffer

September 04, 1992|By Robert Benjamin | Robert Benjamin,Beijing Bureau

BEIJING -- China yesterday said it was "shocked and outraged" by President Bush's "erroneous decision" to sell F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan.

The government threatened that the sale would cause "a major retrogression in Sino-U.S. relations," prompt it to pull out of arms-control talks and raise tensions across the Taiwan Straits.

The U.S. Ambassador to China, J. Stapleton Roy, was summoned by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Huaqiu, who communicated China's demand that the United States revoke the approval of the fighters' sale, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said.

"If the U.S. side should insist on having its own way, the Chinese government and people will have no choice but to make a strong reaction, and the U.S. government will be held responsible for all the serious consequences," the official news service quoted Mr. Liu as saying.

Mr. Liu specifically threatened that the sale of the planes would ,, have "a negative impact on Sino-U.S. cooperation in the United Nations and other international organizations" and would make it hard for China to remain in weapons-control negotiations with the United States, Russia, France and Britain.

While China has not been fully supportive of U.N. Security Council actions favored by the United States, it has tended to abstain rather than cast its veto.

Mr. Bush also infuriated Australians yesterday with the announcement of a $1 billion increase in U.S. wheat exports.

Wheat is one of Australia's major exports, and farmers and the government have complained that U.S. export subsidies unfairly undermine the market for Australian wheat.

"We deeply regret that domestic policy pressures have overridden a U.S. commitment to the pursuit of a less-corrupted international trading environment for farm products," Prime Minister Paul Keating said.

At a news conference here yesterday, Wu Jianmin, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, repeatedly referred to the fighter plane sale to Taiwan as a violation of one of three communiques that serve as the basis for Sino-U.S. relations -- an Aug. 17, 1982, agreement in which the U.S. promised to gradually reduce its arms sales to Taiwan.

The $6 billion sale of 150 jets was announced Wednesday by Mr. Bush during a re-election campaign visit to a General Dynamics plant in Fort Worth, Tex., where the planes are made and where 5,800 workers had faced lay-offs because of declining F-16 orders.

The gesture to Taiwan also offers Mr. Bush a way to counter Democratic charges that he has been soft on the Beijing regime in vetoing congressional moves to tie improvements in China's human-rights records to the annual renewal of its most-favored-nation trade status with the United States.

Mr. Wu, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, took care yesterday to note that the Chinese displeasure with the United States over the sale of the jets is considered by China to be a separate issue from its desire to retain its MFN status, which will be the subject of a congressional vote in coming weeks.

Some analysts here took this to indicate that the Chinese venom toward the United States probably will be temporary, particularly because China fears that Democratic nominee Bill Clinton will defeat Mr. Bush in the November election. Mr. Clinton has threatened to take a tougher stance than Mr. Bush on China's trade status.

"China's going to make a lot of noise, but I don't think much will come of it because it has an acute perception of its position in the American election," a Beijing-based diplomat said. "They appreciate George Bush as a good friend."

For Taiwan, the sale represents a "major breakthrough," Chen Li-An, the island's defense minister, said yesterday, according to wire reports. "Should the Chinese Communists launch an attack against us, they will have to pay a higher price now."

DTC The island has been seeking the F-16s for the past decade to replace its U.S.-built, 30-year-old F-5E fighters and 40-year-old F-104 Sabre jets, which have suffered parts shortages.

Taiwan's request for the F-16s was given urgency by recent reports that China will receive this year at least two dozen Russian-made Su-27 jets, planes that would significantly alter the balance of power across the Taiwan Straits. The Su-27s reportedly carry more armaments than the F-16s.

Despite the F-16 sale, Taiwanese officials said yesterday that they will continue to seek 120 Mirage 2000-5 fighters from France, a possible $7-billion deal that has been delayed because of China's objections.

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