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The Bone in Beijing's Throat

Patrick J Buchanan

December  22  2003

During the early Cold War, Nikita Khrushchev referred to West Berlin, the free city of 2 million surrounded by the Red Army and East Germany, as "a bone in our throat." That bone helped kill the Soviet Empire. Now, the bone in Beijing's throat is Taiwan.

Though the island was ruled by the mainland for only four years of the 20th century, Beijing claims Taiwan as a lost province.

Before 1945, Taiwan was a colony of Japan, which had seized it in the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-1895. In 1945, the Americans turned Taiwan over to the Chinese Nationalists of Chiang Kai-shek, 2 million of whom fled there when defeated by Mao's hordes in 1949.

Chiang ruled Taiwan until his death, and was succeeded by his son

Since 1949, under American protection, Taiwan has developed into a democratic, prosperous land of more than 20 million, most of whom are ethnic Taiwanese. But to Beijing, Taiwan belongs to China. Its rulers have been clear: Any declaration of independence means war.

What is the position of the United States? It is ambiguous, and it is often due to a lack of clarity that wars come.

In 1972, Richard Nixon made his historic journey to Beijing. In the Shanghai Communique negotiated by Henry Kissinger, the United States said it did not dispute the claim by Chinese on both sides of the strait that Taiwan was part of China. Yet, Nixon maintained an embassy in Taipei and the U.S. mutual security treaty with Chiang's Republic on Taiwan.

In 1978, Jimmy Carter ordered both diplomatic relations and the security treaty terminated. He recognized the People's Republic of China as the legitimate government of China. A firestorm ensued. Congress then passed a Taiwan Relations Act, declaring a U.S. interest that there be no forcible seizure of the island by the successors of Mao.

In 1996, when Beijing fired test rockets toward Taiwan, Bill Clinton sent two carrier battle groups to show American resolve. In 2001, George W. Bush declared he would do whatever necessary to defend Taiwan from forcible seizure by Beijing.

Now the Taiwan Strait is heating up, and the aggressor in this confrontation is Beijing. For years, it has steadily built up a force now numbering 496 missiles opposite the island. For their part, Taiwanese leaders have begun to talk of independence.

Up for re-election in March and trailing, President Chen Shui-bian has cleverly scheduled a referendum the same day, in which the people of Taiwan can vote to demand that Beijing remove the missile threat.

While this non-binding referendum is hardly a mortal threat to Beijing, President Bush, during the visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, excoriated Taiwan's elected president for a provocation in even holding the referendum. Bush made no mention of the near 500 rockets targeted against Taiwan.

The title of a Washington Post editorial, "Mr. Bush's Kowtow," got it exactly right.

A gloating Wen thanked Bush for dissing America's old friend and went home. China has since conducted a campaign of propaganda and intimidation, threatening war on Taiwan if it dares declare independence.

What is going on here?

George W. Bush is in a box of his own making.

With his axis-of-evil speech threatening Iran, Iraq and North Korea with war if they did not abandon all efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, Bush jolted Kim Jong-Il. Pyongyang quickly broke out of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and began to ratchet up its program to build nuclear weapons.

Then Bush, true to his Bush Doctrine, invaded Iraq and effected the regime change some of his advisers have said is in store for North Korea.

Pyongyang's response has been to throw off all constraints on its nuclear programs and demand a unilateral U.S. guarantee that we will not do to North Korea what we just did to Iraq. Else, Pyongyang threatens, it will go nuclear.

If Bush wishes to avoid having his Bush Doctrine challenged by North Korean testing and deployment of nuclear weapons, he needs some political, diplomatic and economic cards to play against Kim Jong Il. He has almost none.

But China does have leverage with North Korea. Thus, Bush needs Beijing's help, and thus Bush provides political support for Beijing by trashing our friends on Taiwan for their outrage in holding a non-binding referendum telling China to take down the missiles aimed at their island. Still, China has yet to use that leverage on North Korea.

America needs to review its China policy. We buy 10 percent of her GDP every year. We annually transfer factories, technology, jobs. We give her unrestricted access to our $11 trillion market. What are we getting in return, besides cheap consumer goods?

2003 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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