Tango with Tang
The Washington Times
March 24, 2002
The White House recently proved the durability of its friendship with Taiwan by making a goodwill gesture that wasn't in America's immediate interests. Given China's geopolitical importance to America's counter-terror campaign, it was a courageous move that gave precedence to principle.
From March 10 to 12, Taiwan's defense minister, Tang Yao-ming, attended a private conference of military officials and defense manufacturers in Florida organized by the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council. In doing so, Mr. Tang became Taiwan's first defense minister to be given a non-transit visa to the United States in over two decades.
On the sidelines of the conference, Mr. Tang had a landmark meeting with Deputy Defense Minister Paul Wolfowitz, who spoke at the event. This type of meeting with a U.S. official is "very normal," said Mr. Tang, adding "We were talking about how to make the Taiwan Strait even more stable. [Taiwan´s] armed forces will not provoke a conflict. This is our policy."
Beijing was, predictably, not quite as casual about the meeting, and summoned U.S. Ambassador Clark T. Randt in China to voice its outrage. Assistant Foreign Minister Zhou Wenzhong told Mr. Randt China had "serious" objections to Mr. Tang's visit and said it would "damage both Chinese-U.S. relations and relations across the Taiwan Strait," reported China's official Xinhua news agency. Mr. Zhou said Washington's decision to grant Mr. Tang a visa was an "open violation" of agreements between the United States and China.
But the administration clearly feels differently. America has good reason to show appreciation for Taiwan. Taiwan's government and private sector made contributions valued at about $9 million to the Twin Towers Fund and to humanitarian assistance programs in Afghanistan. The administration has proved it is not willing to drop its support of countries with which America has a strong, ideological affinity in the interests of obliging anti-terror allies.
Sadly, this hasn't been the White House's approach toward the Russians, who continue to commit horrific human rights abuses in Chechnya.
Mr. Tang's visit to America and meeting with Mr. Wolfowitz, however, sends a strong signal to China at a crucial time and Beijing appears to have gotten the message