Chinese analysts predict sale will harm relations with U.S.

Submarines suggest major change in policy

April 24, 2001|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

BEIJING - While Washington may view its decision to sell less-sophisticated arms to Taiwan as something of a compromise, analysts on both sides of the Taiwan Strait predicted this morning that the sales will exacerbate already strained Sino-U.S. relations.

Although the United States deferred a decision to sell the Aegis radar system, Beijing will probably view the new package as further evidence that Washington intends to aggressively check China's ambitions in the region.

"I think these arms sales to Taiwan will definitely have a negative impact on Sino-U.S. relations," said Yan Xuetong, executive director of the Institute of International Studies at Beijing's Qinghua University. "This sale would indicate Bush's policy towards China will become tougher and tougher. It will increase suspicions between these two countries."

In Taipei, Taiwan's capital, the reaction this morning was upbeat. "It's a very happy day for the Taiwanese Navy," said Andrew Yang, secretary general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, a Taipei think-tank.

Both Yang and Yan said the Bush administration's decision to help Taiwan obtain eight diesel submarines marked a major change in the weapons' sales relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan. Whereas previous weapons sold to Taipei have been described as defensive, the submarines clearly have offensive capabilities and could serve as a deterrent.

The subs would permit Taiwan to blockade Chinese harbors in retaliation for a Chinese blockade, which is part of Beijing's long-term strategy for taking the island back.

"This is a major breakthrough for U.S. arms supplying," said Yang. "It will be a very strong political signal that the U.S. [support] of Taiwan has increased."

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