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Chinese Military Modernization and Cross-Strait Relations, 2004

Randall G. Schriver, Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Statement to China Security Review Commission
February 6, 2004

Randall G. Schriver, Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Statement to China Security Review Commission
Washington, DC
February 6, 2004

Good Morning. Thank you, Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to address the Commission on the issue of Chinese military modernization and its relation to recent developments in cross-Strait relations. I am pleased to be here with Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Lawless who is particularly well qualified to address many of the concerns you might have about the issue of China's military modernization. For my part, I will focus on the cross-Strait relationship and the Administration's view of it, in light of the steadily increasing capability of the People's Liberation Army.

First, our objective has been consistent for more than three decades and through seven Administrations of both parties: to preserve peace and stability in the region. In this regard, we maintain our one China policy, based on the three joint Communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act. This approach, coupled with our forward deployed forces in the region, has helped create a peaceful environment in which mutually beneficial economic and people-to-people ties have expanded dramatically across the Strait in recent years.

Second, I would note that political leaders on both sides of the Strait have expressed their desire to seek a peaceful resolution of their differences. The problem has been that at the most important senior levels, they have not been talking with one another. The Administration has encouraged Beijing and Taipei to find some way to enter into direct communication, without the kinds of preconditions that have been discussed previously.

Third, America stands firmly behind democracy in Taiwan. We applaud the evolution of Taiwan's democratic experience and the presidential elections in 2000 which led, for the first time, to the peaceful transfer of power from one party, the Nationalist Party or Kuomintang, to another, the Democratic Progressive Party or DPP.

We expect a similarly hard fought, democratically contested election on March 20. We are committed to working with the democratically elected President and Vice President of the next government of Taiwan, whoever they may be.

Fourth, military modernization has been high on China's list of priorities since the start of its economic reform more than 25 years ago, but, for the most part, has been closely tied to China's main domestic agenda, rapid economic development. Many of the efforts China has made at streamlining and professionalizing its military, upgrading its capabilities, improving command and control functions have been the natural and logical outgrowth of a nation that seeks to ensure its borders are safe from threat and that it can defend its interests in an uncertain world.

However, there are some aspects of Chinese military modernization - command and control, naval and amphibious upgrades, missile placement, especially as it is and other deployments and investments directed at improving the PRC's capability to target Taiwan. We do not take for granted that the PRC may ultimately elect to use force to settle cross-Strait differences, and we have made our position on the use of force clear to China, both publicly and privately. With regard to all of these capabilities, the State Department, along with other USG agencies, has pointed out that the military build-up contributes to tensions, which in turn lead to distrust on both sides. Let me note that we have been especially concerned about the PRC's deployment of ballistic missiles along its Eastern seaboard. Such a deployment is inherently destabilizing. We have raised the issue of Taiwan-targeted missiles with the PRC at the highest levels and continue to do so regularly. I want to assure you that we are going to do our utmost to make sure that there isn't any kind of conflict in the Taiwan Strait area.

I know that you are also interested in our view of the recent referenda, which President Chen Shui-bian has offered for consideration by the voters concurrent with the March 20 election. We support referenda in principle; they are tools that all democratic countries use to gauge the sentiments of the people, though it's usually the case that you have these referenda coming from the bottom rather than drawn up by the top.

As the Deputy Secretary said in Beijing, referenda are generally reserved for very difficult and divisive issues, but the wording of these referenda is neither difficult nor particularly divisive. The Secretary of State has noted that we are still studying the text of President Chen's proposed referenda. We do not endorse any particular referendum or phrasing, but we will wait to see the context, and how it is used domestically in Taiwan.

In conclusion, both sides of the strait need to reflect on the President's December 9 statement, during the visit of PRC Premier Wen Jiabao. The U.S. does not support Taiwan independence and opposes unilateral attempts, by either side, to change the cross-Strait status quo. We can't get much clearer than that, no matter how many times we are asked to reiterate it, no matter how many requests we have for clarification.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my prepared remarks and I would be happy to take questions from you and your fellow commissioners.

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