Under the lead headline "China Warns U.S. of Missile Strike," Washington Times National Security Correspondent Bill Gertz reported today:
- China stepped up its war of words over Taiwan yesterday, bluntly threatening to fire long-range nuclear missiles at the United States if it defends the island….The official military newspaper, Liberation Army Daily, stated in a commentary made public in Beijing that U.S. intervention in a conflict between China and Taiwan would result in "serious damage" to U.S. security interests in Asia…."China…is a country that has certain abilities of launching strategic counterattack and the capacity of launching a long-distance strike."
As Mr. Gertz notes, this warning is reminiscent of a threat of nuclear attack against Los Angeles issued during the run-up to Taiwan’s presidential elections four years ago by Lieutenant General Xiong Guangkai, the PRC’s Deputy Chief of Staff. Gen. Xiong, who was recently feted by the Clinton Administration during an official visit to Washington, was doubtless also involved in China’s latest effort to blackmail America.
These worrisome pronouncements — and those aimed directly at Taiwan — are further evidence of just how out-of-touch with the real nature of China the Clinton-Gore Administration has become. In his column also published in today’s Washington Times, Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney identified some of the serious implications of this disconnect, and the need for corrective action to support Taiwan, protect America and prevent the penetration of the U.S. capital markets by dubious Chinese companies.
The Washington Times, 29 February 2000
China’s Cashing in on Clinton
By Frank J. Gaffney Jr.
Once upon a time, a mother fatuously watching her uncoordinated son in a parade with his military unit was heard to declare: "Look, everybody’s out of step but Johnnie." Increasingly, a similar myopia seems to be afflicting the Clinton-Gore administration with respect to China.
President Clinton is evidently oblivious to an ominous new reality: Beijing appears to have concluded that there is a window of opportunity for bringing Taiwan to heel.
For the next 10 months, the White House will be occupied by a man who has accepted campaign contributions from Chinese agents of influence; a man who has formally, if ignominiously, embraced Beijing’s line on its sovereignty over 22 million democratic Taiwanese.
The alarming prospect is that the Chinese Politburo calculates it is far more likely to get away with murder – or more precisely, what might be called, "stateicide" – on Mr. Clinton’s watch than on that of any of his prospective successors. Even Vice President Al Gore might prove less reliable from Beijing’s point of view than the man he currently serves. Hence, we appear to have entered a period of particular danger, when an attack by China against Taiwan seems a distinct possibility, if not actually a probability.
Of course, this ominous conclusion has only been reinforced by China’s threat to its "renegade province" issued last week in an 11,000-word manifesto – released, not coincidentally, in the immediate aftermath of the departure from Beijing of President Clinton’s friend and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and his high-level delegation.
As the Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist William Safire observed in the New York Times, China may have been encouraged to take this step by the Clinton-Gore team’s feckless response to Vladimir Putin’s ruthless bid to consolidate his political position. Mr. Safire correctly suggests that Taiwan may be seen by a Chinese government seeking legitimacy to be every bit as convenient a target as Chechnya was for the new leader of Russia.
Even more relevant to China’s calculations than the kid-glove treatment the United States is giving China’s new-found "strategic partner" – Russia – however, is the message being sent by the administration when Mr. Clinton promises to "do whatever it takes" to secure congressional approval of permanent trading status for China. Beijing sees him muting concerns about its latest, explicit threat to Taiwan. They can only be heartened by his actions on three other fronts:
- Mr. Clinton insists he will veto the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act (TSEA) – legislation designed to improve U.S.-Taiwan military ties and facilitate the transfer to Taipei of defensive equipment needed to offset the growing threat posed to that democratic nation by China’s aggressive build-up of ballistic missiles and other offensive hardware. Especially urgently needed are the sort of flexible anti-missile defenses Taiwan has sought to purchase aboard U.S.-built Aegis fleet air defense ships. (Interestingly, the chief of naval operations, Adm. Jay Johnson, has just written Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen calling for the fullest possible utilization of these ships to defend not only U.S. allies and forces overseas, but the people and territory of the United States as well.)
The TSEA passed the House a few weeks ago by a veto-proof margin. In the wake of China’s latest belligerence, the Senate should follow suit, if its leadership will bring the bill up for a vote. Such an action takes on all the greater importance in underscoring U.S. commitment to the security of Taiwan insofar as the executive branch’s calculated ambiguity on this point is only feeding the perception in ruling Chinese circles that an attack on Taiwan will – at least until November – be essentially cost-free.
- The Clinton administration has announced its intention to launch a campaign to resuscitate the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) rejected last October by a majority of the Senate. A recent op-ed article in The Washington Post by former President Jimmy Carter signaled that this campaign will exploit pressure generated by an international conference in April called to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. On that occasion, China and its friends in the Third World can be expected to cavil that the failure of the United States to ratify the CTBT will prompt many nations to "go nuclear" despite their treaty obligations not to do so.
As a recent symposium sponsored by the Center for Security Policy made clear, however, the relatively slow pace with which proliferation has proceeded to date actually owes more to the credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent than any arms-control accord. The Senate was right in deciding that the CTBT would grievously erode the safety, reliability and effectiveness of that deterrent – an outcome all the more ill-advised in light of nuclear-modernization efforts by China, Russia and other dangerous "rogue" states.
Unfortunately, the lack of U.S. nuclear testing since 1992 has also contributed to uncertainty about the adequacy of steps to protect conventional military gear from the effects of high-energy, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks. This vulnerability has not escaped the attention of the Chinese military. China’s Shanghai Jiefang Ribao newspaper recently revealed that Chinese military strategists seek to accelerate the development of EMP bombs or missiles for the purpose of destroying, among other targets, U.S. aircraft carrier fleets.
- Mr. Clinton has rejected appeals from champions of human rights, religious freedom and national security that he block the impending penetration of the U.S. stock market by a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Company (CNPC). This state-owned enterprise’s involvement in Sudan has been determined by the U.S. and Canadian governments to be materially supporting genocidal attacks by the Islamic extremist regime in Khartoum against Christians and others in Sudan’s oil-rich southern regions. As a result, a pending $ 5 billion to $ 7 billion initial public offering by CNPC’s PetroChina holding company on the New York Stock Exchange could soon be allowing huge quantities of unwitting U.S. investors’ funds to be put to unacceptable uses by communist China and/or Sudan.
In each of these areas, the Clinton-Gore administration is clearly out of step with U.S. security and other interests. The outstanding question is: How high a price will we – and other freedom-loving people – pay for its incompetence, if not its malfeasance?
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.