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Taiwan media hail U.S. arms package

Kidd-class destroyer
The U.S. has opted to sell Taiwan four Kidd-class destroyers, which are not fitted with the Aegis radar system  

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan's media have welcomed a U.S. decision to provide the island with its biggest arms package in a decade, describing it as a "major diplomatic victory" of the government.

But local newspapers also expressed fear the move would trigger an arms race with China.

The United Daily editorial says the "diplomatic victory" also includes a visit by former president Lee Teng-hui to Japan and the U.S., as well as the sale by Washington of an array of military equipment that will vastly improve Taiwan's defenses. Asia
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The mass circulation Chinese-language newspaper says the arm sales decision signals an improvement in Taiwan-U.S. relations.

But it questions whether Taiwan's decision to spend more on military equipment will guarantee its safety.

"Should our ultimate aim be to seek war or peace? By continuing to boost military spending to raise our defense capabilities, will it eventually promote peace or increase the potential risk of confrontation?"

Taipei Times argues that a 1982 agreement that stipulates gradual reduction in U.S. arm sales to Taiwan -- and which China says the U.S. has now violated -- is no longer "operative".

"When the communiqué was signed, the Chinese government emphasized its 'fundamental policy of striving for peaceful reunification' of Taiwan. It was with this 'fundamental' Chinese policy in mind that the US government agreed to limit its arms sales to Taiwan . . . But China has never renounced the use of force."

"By reneging on its fundamental policy of a peaceful settlement, China has effectively abrogated the 1982 agreement," it says.

Another mass circulation newspaper, China Times, analyzes the reasons why the U.S. has disapproved the sale of powerful destroyers equipped with the sophisticated Aegis battle-management system.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan a renegade province, disapproves of all arms sales by the U.S. to Taiwan, and had warned of serious consequences if the U.S. had sold four of the $1.2 billion Aegis-equipped ships to Taiwan.

The U.S. response to China's disapproval has been to highlight the buildup of Chinese missiles -- now estimated to be around 300 -- built up along its east coast. It has said it will reassess the need of selling Aegis to Taiwan within the next two to three years.

"This has two meanings. To those Senators who advocated selling the weapon to Taiwan, it is to calm them and that the sale is not impossible in the future. On the other hand, it is to tell mainland China that there is no need for the U.S. to sell the Aegis if China takes the initiative to scale down cross-straits tension.

Taiwan News however says not everyone may consider it a victory, especially those in the mainland.

"With the United States formally denying the sale of Aegis-level destroyers to Taiwan, Beijing will undoubtedly claim victory this time," said in the editorial.

"This, however, may send misleading messages to hard-liners within the Chinese government, and give power to the illusions of relentless Chinese nationalism."

China has 'serious concerns' about U.S. arms for Taiwan
April 24, 2001
Lee's Japan visit hailed as 'breakthrough'
April 23, 2001
China protests as Lee wins Japan, U.S. visas
April 21, 2001
White House announces arms sale to Taiwan
April 24, 2001
Bush defers Taiwan's request for high-tech destroyers
April 23, 2001

Taiwan Government
The White House
Taiwan Ministry of National Defense
China Foreign Ministry

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