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Congressman Peter Deutsch: respond forcefully

Washington, 24 February 2000

On Thursday, February 24th 2000, the publication USA-Today published a statement by US Congressman Peter Deutsch (D-FL) in which he strongly criticized the new Chinese threats against Taiwan, and urged a stronger US response. Here follows the full text of Mr. Deutsch's remarks:

Respond forcefully By Peter Deutsch

Only three weeks before democratic elections in Taiwan, China issued a new ultimatum that it would attack Taiwan if the island's leaders failed to meet China's expectations for reunification talks. The Clinton administration responded with a harshly worded condemnation, but is this response proportionate to China's most recent threat?

The administration's plan for stability in the region is relatively simple - keep China from invading Taiwan by providing defensive capabilities to the island, but not so much that it prompts Taiwan to declare independence. This careful balance requires that neither side feels like it is losing ground or being ignored. It also means that any independent action disturbing this balance must be counterbalanced with a proportionate response by the other party.

In the case of Taiwan - an inherently weaker power - the U.S. can step in to help create necessary stability in the region.

There are those who think that China's recent ultimatum received a sufficiently stern response from the administration. I disagree.

The fact that this ultimatum comes on the eve of democratic elections in Taiwan demonstrates China's repeated attempts to intimidate the people of Taiwan. Moreover, according to a Pentagon report submitted to Congress earlier this year, China is currently engaged in a major buildup of ballistic missiles on its coast, directly across the strait from Taiwan.

Given the tremendous strength of these weapons, especially when combined with China's latest threat, the U.S. response should be stronger.

This month, the House by a vote of 341 to 70 approved the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act. This bill will advance the defensive relationship with Taiwan already established under the Taiwan Relations Act by increasing communications with our military about Taiwan's defensive needs.

In doing so, it would restore balance and promote stability in the region. The bill is a necessary, bipartisan answer to China's continued aggression.

This is not an escalation of military force, but a proportionate response to China's continuing effort to destabilize the region and intimidate the people of Taiwan. Considering China's latest ultimatum, the Senate should take up this bill and send it to the president.

Rep. Peter Deutsch, D-Fla., is a sponsor of the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act.