GOP lawmakers: Arms sales to Taiwan more likely
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The spy plane standoff poses a serious threat to Chinese-American relations and could prompt members of Congress to act quickly to provide military equipment to Taiwan, according to some Republicans on Capitol Hill.
"The requested sale of Aegis (Burke)-class destroyers becomes more likely," said Rep. Doug Bereuter, R-Nebraska, the second-ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.
"This is a serious event in Sino-American relations and may be a very important negative event in our relationship," Bereuter said. "The Chinese story about what happened lacks credibility. This is an old aircraft (the U.S. EP-3 surveillance plane) ... and the Chinese (plane involved) is a jet aircraft. Normally when you have close contact of a surveillance plane it's the responsibility of the faster plane to avoid a collision. ... So the concept that this EP-3 (caused the crash) is not credible."
Coincidentally, a bipartisan group of members sent a letter Tuesday to the Bush administration urging the sale of weapons to Taiwan.
"We strongly support and recommend that your administration recognize the legitimate need for Taiwan to acquire the Arleigh Burke Aegis destroyers," the letter reads, "and that you give full consideration to the release of this system to Taiwan this year."
The letter is signed by 82 House Democrats and Republicans. The Bush administration is scheduled to meet with Taiwanese officials later this month to discuss that potential sale.
On the Senate side, Republicans and Democrats alike warned that recent warming in relations with China through permanent free trade and other initiatives hangs in the balance.
"I think the world is looking at China to see how they handle this situation. We have been trying to welcome China into the community of nations. We are trying to establish trade relationships with them. They must conduct themselves according to international law," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Connecticut, who was on the Democratic ticket opposing Bush, praised the president for his handling of the situation.
"In regards to president Bush, I think that everything that he has done thus far has been right on target, just right and the point is to concentrate on what we all want to have happen, which is that the plane and the crew, the American crew and the American plane, be returned home. And that's not asking for very much," Lieberman said.
Members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence were briefed Monday on the China plane situation.
One Republican aide said senators are deeply troubled by the situation.
"If China wants to behave like a rogue nation, ignoring all the conventions of international law, this will indicate to us that they seek confrontation over cooperation," said the aide, "If they want to get members of the U.S. Senate upset over relations with China, this is the way to do it. "
While expressing concerns, Republican members of Congress were careful not to criticize the administration's handling of the current standoff.
Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas, called the situation "dangerous," but said, "This is the president's business. The president of the United States should conduct foreign policy."
In a related matter, the House will debate a resolution Tuesday related to the human rights situation in China. The resolution urges the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights to pass a resolution urging China to end human rights violations in China and Tibet.
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