Taiwan needs U.S. defenses

April 02, 2001|By Stephen D. Bryen

WASHINGTON -- For 10 or more years the United States has tilted heavily toward China and left Taiwan in the cold. The Bush administration recognizes this must change.

The United States naturally had reason to want a positive relationship with China. After all, China has a potentially huge market for the United States and an appetite for our high technology. Hundreds, if not thousands, of U.S. firms have opened business ties to China, and barriers to trade such as export controls have been reduced to a minimum.

But our relationship with China has two faces. One tries to be positive; the other is chillingly negative.

While China has wanted to promote better ties, it also has become aggressive, both domestically and in foreign affairs. Domestically, Christians in China have suffered and Chinese leaders are fighting a war against the Falun Gong, who practice refining the body and mind through special exercises and meditation.

At the same time, China has been aggressive externally in the following ways:

An unremitting buildup of ballistic and cruise missiles aimed at Taiwan.

Conducting military exercises, coordinated with the Russians, to demonstrate Chinese power aimed at Japan, Korea and the United States.

Aiding U.S. enemies by providing military technology, most recently command-and-control systems to Iraq and missile technology to Pakistan and Iran.

Occupying strategic and mineral-rich islands in the Pacific that do not belong to China.

The United States has played down these developments and, regrettably, withheld critical intelligence on China's activities from the American people. It is clear China intends to challenge the United States in the Pacific and create problems for it in such sensitive areas as the Middle East and Persian Gulf.

Moreover, China's alliance with Russia could feed the ambitions of both regimes and destabilize Europe and Central Asia as well.

Taiwan, a democratic country of about 23 million people, is in the eye of the storm and has asked for help to defend its people against Chinese threats.

Other than with missiles, China menaces Taiwan with advanced Russian-supplied submarines and Russian-built Sovremenny-class destroyers armed with supersonic "Sunburn" anti-ship missiles.

Further, China's military is increasingly being upgraded with such U.S. high technology as the satellite-based Global Positioning System to guide smart weapons and advanced computers and fiber optics for secure communications.

Washington agreed that Taiwan needs missile defense as soon as possible, and the best missile defense when it is ready.

The first means upgrading Taiwanese frigates with the latest theater ballistic missile defense system, including new radar plus the SM2-Extended Range Block IV standard missile system that can shoot down cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.

The second means the administration also must supply Taiwan with Aegis destroyers with a theater missile defense capability when they are deployed in six to eight years.

In addition, Taiwan's military and the U.S. military have no common communication links. This must be fixed, and it is likely the Bush administration will do so.

It is in the U.S. national interest, as it is our responsibility by law, to make sure Taiwan has a credible deterrent to Chinese threats. The need for missile defense and improvements in command and control between the United States and Taiwan are vital steps in ensuring Taiwan's self-defense capability.

Stephen Bryen was deputy undersecretary of defense in the Reagan administration.

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