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Cross-strait tensions and the US

Updated On: Nov 06, 2007

In these last remaining days of President Chen Shui-bian, he is doing his best to leave a legacy for his presidency, even if that means angering Beijing or displeasing Washington.

Washington is trying its best to put a lid on Taiwanese provocative moves on the military front, especially plans by Chen’s government to station missiles on Matsu, an island directly facing Fujian province inChina. Taiwanese media had reported that the Taiwanese military had allocated a budget and sent missile experts to Matsu in early 2007 to prepare for the deployment of surface-to-surface missiles.

Forced by Washington to play down this move, Taiwan has so far suspended the plan to station missiles in Matsu. It is unclear how long this voluntary restraint under US pressure will last. "We will not comment on the story. We will not confirm or deny anything at this moment," ministry spokesman Major General Yu Sy-tue said. Even as the deployment plans are suspended, Chen’s government continues mass production of the missiles, according to local Taiwanese media.

Another spanner in the works is also China’s accusation of an alleged Taiwanese spy who purportedly hacked into sensitive government computer systems on the mainland. Lee Fang-rong is said to be an agent of Taiwan military intelligence who planted "Trojan" programs in computer systems belonging to unnamed economic, military and diplomatic institutions to steal classified information. The computer system is also said to be part of the Chinese intelligence apparatus.

It is unclear whether Lee was in Taiwan or Moscow where he might have carried out the hacking. "We have noticed related reports," said China's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi. "For years, Taiwanese intelligence agencies have stolen secret network information on a broad scale from the mainland and caused vile consequences."

While Taiwan is busy making its moves, Beijing is also subtly making sure that its presence is never too far away. China admitted that in late April and early May 2007 its warships had sailed past Taiwan's east coast -- through the channel between Okinawa and the smaller Japanese islet of Miyako -- on their way to a military exercise at sea. Two missile destroyers and two frigates from China's North Sea Fleet had left Shanghai on 28 April 2007 for the exercise and returned home on 11 May 2007.

Other than physical warnings, China is also keeping up with its verbal warnings. The Chinese mainland warned it would take "necessary measures" if "Taiwan independence" forces continued to push their activities. If "Taiwan independence" forces clung to their course, the mainland "will definitely take necessary measures to safeguard state sovereignty and territorial integrity and protect our nation's core interests", said Yang Yi. According to Yang, Chinese priority now is to prevent the Taiwan authorities, headed by Chen Shui-bian, from promoting a "referendum" on Taiwan's bid to enter into the United Nations, and fight secessionist actions for "de jure independence".

Yang also expressed strong opposition to Taiwan's development of nuclear weapons, in response to a journalist's question on Chen Shui-bian's remark that Taiwan would not develop nuclear weapons, but needed to improve its defense capability. "We have noticed the reports," Yang said. "We are uncompromisingly against Taiwan's development of nuclear weapons or nuclear weapon capability in any form."

The report to the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) by Hu Jintao set the tone for the mainland's policies on Taiwan, Yang said. "We will never waver in our commitment to the one-China principle, never abandon our efforts to achieve peaceful reunification, never change the policy of placing our hopes on the people of Taiwan and never compromise in our opposition to the secessionist activities aimed at 'Taiwan independence'," he quoted Hu's report as saying.

Offering an olive branch at the end of this warning, the mainland is willing to talk with any political party in Taiwan that agrees that both sides of the Strait belong to one and the same China, Yang said. The mainland will also continue working on issues concerning the interests of Taiwan compatriots, including promoting trade, charter flights and tourism across the Strait, he said.

During the defence dialogue between China and US, Chinese Defence Minister, Cao Gangchuan repeated China’s position to his US counterpart, Robert Gates, that the US should stop selling weapons toTaiwan.  The two countries agreed to deepen dialogue and open a defence hotline, but US did not get what it has been pressing for – greater transparency in China’s military build-up. (6 November 2007)

Sources:

Chinese mainland to take "necessary measures" if Taiwan cessionists risk "independence" (People’s Daily, 31 Oct 2007)

China seeks Taiwan spy for computer hacking (AP/China Post, 31 October 2007)

Chinese mainland against Taiwan's development of nuclear weapons in any form (People’s Daily, 31 Oct 2007)

Chinese mainland to take necessary measures against "Taiwan independence" (People’s Daily, 31 Oct 2007)

Taipei mum on reports of Matsu missile deployment (Taipei Times, 19 September 2007)

US, China agree to defence hotline (Today, 6 November 2007)