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At the expense of Taiwan -- again

Washington, 12 September 1999

On Saturday, 11 September 1999, Messrs. Clinton and Jiang Zemin met in Auckland, New Zealand, prior to the start of the APEC meeting.

According to press reports, American and Chinese officials emerged from the two leaders' hourlong meeting "brimming with confident assessments of the encounter."

While such positive purring would in general be welcomed, the next sentence in the report is reason for caution. It reads "Chinese officials appeared particularly pleased that Clinton had been openly critical of President Lee Teng-hui of Taiwan for his statements that described the island as a separate state." (New York Times, "Clinton and Jiang heal rift and set a new trade course", September 12 1999).

To add insult to injury, President Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger is quoted as saying that President Clinton had told Mr. Jiang that President Lee "had made things more difficult for both China and the United States."

Berger reportedly added, that Clinton had also warned China that "there would be grave consequences" if Beijing resorts to military force against Taiwan."

While the latter message is slightly reassuring, the overall result of the meeting is still that Mr. Clinton seems to want to improve his relations with China at the expense of Taiwan.

Mr. Clinton even failed to extract from Mr. Jiang a promise to renounce the use of force against Taiwan. Just prior to the Auckland summit, China had held provocative military exercises on the coast just opposite Taiwan, and even practised mock invasions. Perhaps Mr. Clinton should have mentioned that these exercises "...make things more difficult for both the United States and China."

Mr. Lee Teng-hui's statements that Taiwan and China should treat each other as equals and have nation-to-nation relations are plainly common sense. It would thus be helpful it Mr. Clinton would recognize that reality, and stop hiding behind the anachronistic "One China" fiction.

By telling Mr. Jiang that he "shares Beijing's dismay at President Lee's statements", Mr. Clinton is -- again -- siding with the communist dictatorship in Beijing against a free, democratic and independent Taiwan.