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US

White House: Clinton will veto Taiwan military bill

February 3, 2000
Web posted at: 12:16 a.m. EST (0516 GMT)


In this story:

Bill would establish direct military communications

Legislation aims to counter China's military threat

Measure comes as U.S. tries to ease strained ties

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



From staff and wire reports

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House says President Bill Clinton will veto a congressional bill that would expand military ties between the United States and Taiwan.

"It would upset the very delicate and the central balance that has existed for 25 years across the Taiwan Straits," National Security Adviser Samuel Berger said Wednesday.

The Taiwan Security Enhancement Act comes at a time when the United States is trying to shore up support for permanent trade relations with China, which still considers Taiwan a province -- and the White House fears the bill could get in the way of that goal.

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Bill would establish direct military communications

The bill, which passed the House on Tuesday by a veto-proof vote of 341-70, would establish direct military communications between Washington and Taiwan's capital, Taipei, and expand U.S. training of Taiwanese military officials.

It would also require the president to report to Congress annually on Taiwan's defense requests, making it more difficult for the administration to limit arms sales to the country.

Legislation aims to counter China's military threat

Supporters of the bill say it's needed to counter a reported military buildup by the Chinese near Taiwan that included missile tests in 1996 prior to the presidential election there.

"Since then, a massive Chinese missile and military build-up across the Taiwan Straits has served as a constant threat," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas. "Waiting for the next shoe to fall would be a very costly mistake."

CIA Director George Tenet said that fear could be well founded. "The catalyst for these tensions is the Taiwan election on the 18th of March, which Beijing will be monitoring for signs that a new president will retreat from Lee's statements or further extend the distance from reunification," said Tenet.

Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui declared last July that his island's relations with the mainland should be conducted on a "state-to-state" basis. China reacted angrily and threatened the use of force to bring Taiwan back under its rule.

Nevertheless, the White House says it has enough authority under current laws to provide Taiwan with defenses and, therefore, another bill is not needed.

Measure comes as U.S. tries to ease strained ties

China's leadership in Beijing has complained about the bill.

The House vote came at a time when the United States is trying to improve badly strained relations with China after NATO's accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the alliance's air strikes on Yugoslavia.

The legislation also comes at a time when the United States is trying to get Congress to approve permanent trade relations with China, leading to that country's entry into the World Trade Organization.

"People who have concerns about China in the Congress have expressed their concerns through their vote on this bill. Now it's time for them to move on and get WTO for China," said former U.S. Ambassador to China James Lilley.

The White House does not believe the House vote will affect its push for permanent trade relations with China, and senior White House officials say it's likely the bill will not make it through the Senate and then to Clinton's desk.

The White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace, congressional Correspondent Bob Franken and Reuters contributed to this report.



IN-DEPTH SPECIALS:
Visions of China

RELATED STORIES:
Taiwan's ruling party under close scrutiny as vote nears
February 1, 2000
China warns Taiwan about making 'two states theory' legal
January 30, 2000
Cohen plans Beijing visit as U.S.-China relations improve
January 27, 2000
Taiwanese vice president backs his mentor's China policy
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U.S., China renew military ties eight months after bombing of Chinese embassy in Belgrade
January 26, 2000
Clinton names lobbying team on China WTO membership
January 10, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of P.R.China
Government Information Office, ROC
China Today
Information about China


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