On 11 December 1997, the top-ranking official at the Pentagon
responsible for Asia warned that the United States must keep closer
tabs on potentially threatening Chinese military modernization,
particularly in view of recent
reports that the PLA intends to take further steps to intimidate
"I think there actually are areas that we don't know about,
that we think there's more to know about,'' Kurt Campbell, the
deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs,
said at a National Press Club forum on possible future Chinese
Such unknown areas chiefly involved Beijing's military intentions
but also included its interest in ``asymmetrical'' warfare, or
taking advantage of perceived U.S. vulnerabilities, Campbell said. "Those
are capabilities that take advantage of certain intense areas of
effort in terms of missiles or satellites or information,'' he said.
"Those are areas that I think we're going to have to watch very
carefully as we move forward. I think it's something that we are
putting a higher level of effort into, both in terms of our ability
to gather information and to analyze it,'' he added.
Campbell said the U.S. approach to China should be "a mixture
of strength and respect'' while pushing for greater transparency in
military matters. "`If your strategy toward China has too much
strength, then you find yourself veering toward confrontation and
conflict which is in no one's interests. But ... if you have too
much respect you find yourself kowtowing to the Middle Kingdom,'' he
Campbell spoke as the United States and China began their
first-ever formal defense "consultative talks,'' a bid to
foster better understanding and communication between the Chinese
and U.S. military establishments. The two-day session at the
Pentagon brought together Lt. Gen. Xiong Guangkai, deputy chief of
the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, and
Undersecretary of Defense Walter Slocombe.
The PLA general became infamous in the beginning of 1996, when
during the escalating crisis preceding the Taiwan Presidential
elections, he made a threat of nuclear strikes on Los Angeles.
At the height of the confrontation, General Xiong made headlines
in America when he told a US academic: "Americans care more
about Los Angeles than Taiwan." The remarks were widely
interpreted as a veiled threat of nuclear strikes on America's West
Coast, and helped fuel the crisis in which Washington sent two
aircraft carriers to the western Pacific to counter Chinese missile
tests off Taiwan.
"He is now indelibly engraved in the American consciousness
as the man who wants to nuke Hollywood," joked former CIA
director James Woolsey. The visit is the first of what US officials
hope will be an annual review of security issues and
"These talks are designed to increase understanding, to
increase transparency," Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said. "They're
based on the very simple premise that the world's most powerful
nation and the world's most populous nation have to be able to deal
with each other in an adult, mature way both in areas where they
agree and areas where they disagree."
Richard Fisher, a Chinese military expert at the
Foundation, a private research group in Washington,
told the National Press Club forum that China was preparing to use
missile, air and naval forces "`if it deems necessary'' to
retake Taiwan and "to deter and if necessary engage'' U.S.
forces coming to Taiwan's defense. Since nationalist forces went
into exile on Taiwan following their defeat in a 1949 civil war,
communist authorities in Beijing have regarded the island as a
renegade province subject to reabsorption under mainland
Voicing doubt Beijing would attempt an outright invasion of
Taiwan, Fisher said a more likely scenario involved large-scale
missile strikes to ``butter up'' the island followed by a blockade
by air and naval forces. "`To be sure, the PLA (People's
Liberation Army) will have to develop enormously to be able to
accomplish these envisioned missions around Taiwan,'' Fisher said.
Without referring specifically to this assessment, Campbell said
he wished to associate himself with ``almost everything that Richard
Fisher has said because I think he's perhaps our best analyst on
Chinese military capabilities.''
For further information about the Chinese military threat, read
latest issue of Taiwan Communiqué.
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