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Senator Jesse Helms: Let China renounce use of force against Taiwan

Washington, 8 September 1999

Today, Senator Jesse Helms, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent the following letter to President Clinton, just prior to Mr. Clinton's departure to New Zealand to attend the APEC conference.

The letter comes a few days after a similar-sounding letter from the Chairman of the International Relations Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, Mr. Benjamin Gilman. The full text of the letter:

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

There is great apprehension, which I know many in the Senate share, regarding your upcoming meeting with President Jiang in New Zealand, a meeting that was obviously hastily arranged in the wake of Taiwan President Lee's recent remarks on Taiwan's status. It is clear that the meeting was arranged to assuage China's anger.

Given your administration's tilt toward China amidst this latest dispute, I feel obliged to register with you my conviction that no more should be said or done in New Zealand at the further expense of Taiwan.

In fact, I strongly recommend that you use the meeting as an opportunity to reverse the dangerous direction of United States policy during the past weeks and months.

Specifically, I urge that you make clear to President Jiang that any PRC use of force against Taiwan (including Taiwan's offshore islands) will trigger a U.S. intervention in defense of Taiwan. Only such clarity, backed by the presence of sufficient military assets in the region, will provide an adequate deterrent to impetuous Chinese aggression.

It is also imperative, Mr. President, that you clarify and indeed retract your administration's statements that have prompted press reports that your policy is to pressure Taiwan to enter into "political" negotiations with Beijing. Recently, Assistant Secretary Roth and AIT Director Johnson urged both sides to consider so-called "interim agreements." Such "interim agreements", Mr. President, may be similar to the proposal made by NSC Asia Director Lieberthal (before he joined your staff), in which he called on Taiwan to lock itself into agreeing not to declare independence for fifty years and to reduce its arms purchases in exchange for a paper promise from Beijing not to use force.

Such a policy is totally unrealistic and puts Taiwan in a severely weakened position in its negotiations with Beijing. It would also violate the Six Assurances of 1982, in which Taiwan was promised that the United States would not pressure Taiwan to enter into negotiations with China. Mr. President, I implore you to disabuse President Jiang of any misconceptions that U.S. policy is to press Taiwan to enter into any sort of political negotiations and, indeed, to reiterate to President Jiang that the Six Assurances remain U.S. policy!

In addition, it would be a profound mistake for you to issue any kind of joint statement with President Jiang that even hints at Beijing's definition of the one-China policy or the three noes or which in any way signifies U.S. pressure on president Lee to backtrack from his recent remarks on Taiwan's status.

Lastly, it goes without saying that nothing should be said about arms sales to Taiwan other than to restate clearly the legal obligations of the United States under the Taiwan Relations Act.


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