Text: Statement by Dr. Kurt Campbell Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs before the House International Relations Committee 20 May 1998
The policy of the United States toward Taiwan and the PRC is aimed at preserving peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Our strategy includes comprehensive engagement with the PRC in an effort to bring China firmly into the international system as a responsible participant and maintaining our obligations toward Taiwan as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act.
The overarching U.S. goal is stability in the Taiwan Strait. To achieve this goal, it is vital to keep in mind U.S. interests both with respect to the Taiwan issue and in our relations with the PRC. Our fundamental interest on the Taiwan question is that peace and stability be maintained and that the PRC and Taiwan work out their differences peacefully. To that end, we are encouraged by the recent resumption of cross-Strait talks. A constructive and peaceful Taiwan-PRC dialogue serves the interest of all the parties and is a major element in achieving long-term regional peace and stability.
U.S. Policy Toward Taiwan
Now, let me specifically address our policy toward Taiwan. The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979 forms the legal basis of U.S. policy regarding the security of Taiwan. Its premise is that an adequate defense in Taiwan is conducive to maintaining peace and security while differences remain between Taiwan and the PRC. Section 2(b) states:
It is the policy of the United States to consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western pacific area and of grave concern to the United States; to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character; and to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan.
Section 3 of the TRA also provides that the "United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability."
We take our obligation to assist Taiwan in maintaining a self-defense capability very seriously. We do so not only because it is mandated by U.S. law in the TRA, but also because it is in our own national interest. We understand that as long as you have a capable defense, the environment will be more conducive to peaceful dialogue, and thus the whole region will be more stable.
In assessing Taiwan's defense needs, the Department of Defense and U.S. military have dedicated significant intelligence resources over the past two decades to monitoring the military balance in the Strait. We also have an active dialogue with Taiwan's security authorities to keep current on their defense needs. Additionally, through engagement with the PRC, and dialogue with the People's Liberation Army, we gain clearer insights into Chinese military capabilities and intentions. We continue to improve our efforts in all areas that help us carry out our responsibility to assess the balance.
On our obligation to provide articles and services necessary to Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability, we have helped Taiwan gain a formidable capacity to defend itself and to maintain a strong defense posture. Taiwan has acquired defensive systems from the U.S. in recent years including F-16 fighters, Knox-class frigates, M-60A tanks, and the Modified Air Defense System -- a Patriot system derivative. We continually reevaluate Taiwan's posture to ensure we provide Taiwan with sufficient self-defense capability, and comply with the terms of the 1982 Communique.
We recently completed our annual arms sales talks with Taiwan. We considered each weapons system request carefully and conducted a thorough interagency review of the merits of each request. We believe Taiwan is pleased with the results.
While our arms sales policy aims to enhance Taiwan's self-defense capability, it also seeks to reinforce regional stability. We will not provide Taiwan with capabilities that might provoke an arms race with the PRC or other countries in the region. Indeed, decisions on the release of arms made without consideration of the long-term impact both on the situation in the Taiwan Strait and on the region as a whole would be both dangerous and irresponsible. Any transfer of a complicated modern weapon system generally requires years of lead time before the capability is fully in place. Each new system, moreover, demands U.S. commitment for continuing support in order to remain effective.
On the last point, the TRA obliges us to maintain the United States' capacity to resist any resort to force or coercion that would jeopardize the security of Taiwan. This obligation is consistent with America's overall strategy in the region, our commitment to peace and stability, and our regional military posture. For example, we demonstrated our commitment to maintaining regional peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait by deploying two carrier battle groups to the region in response to provocative PRC missile exercises. Finally, the Administration's commitment to maintaining 100,000 troops in the region for the foreseeable future is well-known and widely appreciated throughout the region.
U.S. China Policy
Overall U.S. China policy, including toward the Taiwan question, is expressed in the three joint communiques with the PRC as follows:
-- The United States recognizes the Government of the PRC as "the sole legal Government of China."
-- The United States acknowledges the Chinese position that "there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China." In 1982, the U.S. assured the PRC that it has no intention of pursuing a policy of "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan."
-- Within this context, the people of the United States will maintain cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan.
-- The United States has consistently held that resolution of the Taiwan issue is a matter to be worked out peacefully by the Chinese themselves.
I reiterate the above passages from the TRA and the joint communiques because they precisely express the governing principles of our policy. They serve U.S. interests today just as well as they have in past decades. They have been followed by successive administrations of both political parties.
Let me now call attention to an aspect of the August 17, 1982, joint Communique between the United States and the People's Republic of China that is extremely important to Taiwan's security. In this document, the PRC stated that its "fundamental policy" is "to strive for a peaceful resolution to the Taiwan question." Based on that PRC assurance, the United States Government made reciprocal statements concerning our arms sales to Taiwan -- that we would not increase the quantity or quality of arms and, in fact, intend gradually to reduce these sales. At the time the Joint Communique was issued, we made it clear that our intentions were premised on the PRC's continued adherence to its fundamental policy of striving for peaceful reunification with Taiwan.
While we believe that the PRC's commitment to a fundamental peaceful policy toward Taiwan has not changed, its 1995 and 1996 military exercises opposite Taiwan, including the missile tests the PRC conducted in the Taiwan Strait in 1996 were not helpful to ensuring peace and stability in the region. Similarly, we carefully monitor the PRC's military modernization program, especially as it relates to Taiwan to determine the PRC's commitment to a peaceful approach to the Taiwan question. We are encouraged by more recent signs by Beijing, including its willingness to resume the cross-Strait dialogue it suspended in 1995, that it remains committed to developing peaceful relations.
The United States has abided by our commitments. At the same time, Taiwan's security will also be enhanced as we work to improve relations with the PRC.
Sino-U.S. Military-to-Military Contacts
The Department of Defense (DOD) relationship with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is an integral part of the overall Administration strategy of comprehensive engagement with the PRC, using active dialogue and diplomacy to advance U.S. national interests. Due in part to the successful October U.S.-PRC Summit between President Clinton and President Jiang Zemin, we now have the opportunity to increase our dialogue with our military and civilian counterparts in Beijing. We believe that a sustained senior-level dialogue will allow us to develop mutual understanding with Beijing's leaders. The following are the primary objectives which DOD pursues in its relationship with the PLA:
-- Increase PLA transparency
-- Demonstrate U.S. military capabilities
-- Advance overall Sino-American security dialogue through discussions with PLA leadership
-- Develop CBMs designed to reduce possibility for miscalculations and accidents between operational forces
-- Pursue bilateral functional exchanges beneficial to DOD and the U.S. military (e.g., military medicine) and/or that provide operational insights on the PLA
-- Routinize senior-level defense dialogues to ensure open communications during times of tension
-- Monitor PLA influence in PRC internal politics and foreign policy decision-making
-- Expand PLA participation in appropriate multinational and multilateral military activities
Engagement and pursuit of a cooperative relationship is not to gloss over the very critical differences we have with Beijing's leaders on a wide range of issues. Our policy is designed to pursue cooperation with China where appropriate while opposing Chinese actions and policies with which we disagree. Engagement does not equate to accommodation, nor does it preclude the use of any instruments of U.S. national power to defend our interests -- certainly President Clinton's decision with respect to the March 96 carrier deployment is illustrative of that.
The results of our broader security dialogues with China have been mixed -- we still have significant disagreements over proliferation, U.S.-Japan security ties, PRC criticism of U.S. forward presence in the Asia Pacific region, and Taiwan.
On the other hand, there have been and remain important areas of common global and regional security interests. Key among these are the maintenance of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
We will continue our dialogue with the Chinese national security community to articulate our vital interests, cooperate in those areas where we share common security interests, and to minimize differences in those areas where our interests differ.
Finally, it is important to note our belief that any improvements in the PRC-U.S. bilateral relationship will not come at Taiwan's expense -- but rather, will be to its benefit. Taiwan will be a primary beneficiary of the peace and stability fostered by good Beijing-Washington relations.
Our efforts to improve relations with the PRC are intended to strengthen peace and stability in East Asia. We believe this is of benefit to the region as a whole, including Taiwan. We believe the Taiwan people share this view.
We make clear to the PRC in all our dialogues that we will continue to support Taiwan in its legitimate defense needs not only because it is required by U.S. law, but also because it serves the wider interests of peace and stability in the region. We also have made clear that we support only a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue, and regard any attempt to resolve the issue by other than peaceful means or any action that threatens stability to be contrary to our security interests.
Ultimately, however, Taiwan's security is not dependent on our relationship with Taiwan or on the success of U.S. engagement of the PLA, but on constructive cross-Strait relations.
I want to make one final comment on this Administration's policy toward cross-Strait relations. The U.S. position outlined in the 1982 joint Communique is paramount to ensuring a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan Strait issue. The U.S. position is that the Taiwan issue is for the Chinese on both sides of the Strait to resolve. This remains the best approach and our policy must remain consistent in this regard. We will continue to encourage both sides to find a peaceful and durable solution. We have used and will continue to use all of our channels, including our military-to-military relationship with the PRC, to communicate our policy directly to Chinese civilian and military leaders.
It is critical to recognize that the U.S. does not unilaterally have the capability to impose a solution which would guarantee peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. A lasting peace requires Taiwan and the PRC eventually to find a common framework for addressing their relationship. Both sides must together actively seek ways to address their differences peacefully. This is the only long-term guarantee of Taiwan's security. It is also a necessary element in guaranteeing long-term peace and stability in East Asia.
Mr. Chairman, it is particularly important to note as President Clinton prepares to embark on a trip to the People's Republic of China next month for a Summit with President Jiang Zemin that six administrations of both parties have understood that comprehensive engagement with Beijing represents the best way to promote our interests and to encourage a positive and constructive PRC role with the world. This policy has served the interests of the United States, the PRC, Taiwan, and regional security and prosperity. It has enabled us to pursue engagement with China and strong, unofficial ties with Taiwan. It has enabled Taiwan's people and leaders to maintain their security, produce one of the world's economic miracles, and consolidate its democracy.
Our relations with Taiwan and the PRC are likely to be one of our most complex and important foreign policy challenges for many years to come. Indeed, the global political and regional environment is very different today than at the time the three Communiques and Taiwan Relations Act -- which govern and guide U.S. relations with Taiwan and the PRC -- were formulated and implemented. Nonetheless, the documents have served U.S. interests in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and remain the best framework for guiding U.S. policies. DOD anticipates that they will continue to do so. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.