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Bush to Announce Arms Sales to Taiwan

Aired April 22, 2001 - 09:18   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: The controversial issue of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan hits the front burner this week. On Tuesday, President Bush is expected to announce which weapons the U.S. will sell to Taiwan. It's a yearly decision that carries added political significance this year because of current tensions, as you know, between the U.S. and China.

Joining me now, from Boston, to talk about it is Robert Ross, China scholar and political science professor at Boston College.

Bob, good to see you.

ROBERT ROSS, BOSTON COLLEGE: Good to see you.

PHILLIPS: Alright, let's talk about this arms sale announcement and if you definitely think this could be a turning point for the Bush administration.

ROSS: There are a number of items on the agenda which the Chinese would find very provocative. The issue is not arms sales. Taiwan is the second-largest purchaser of U.S. arms in the world. The question is which arms.

I mean, there are certain arms that could indeed lead to a confrontation with China.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about those arms, then. Let's get specific.

ROSS: Yes, we're dealing with weapons that are anti-missile weapons, missile defense weapons that are tantamount to a U.S./Taiwan security relationship because our two militaries would be working hand-in-glove.

And the Chinese have said a security relationship with Taiwan is over the line, it's a red-line issue.

So, the issue is not arms sales, but do we develop a relationship with Taiwan that the mainland will retaliate against.

PHILLIPS: Well, what about China's domestic policy? Don't you think the arms sale could definitely have a fallout here?

ROSS: Well, the situation in China is delicate now. The Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin, suffered a hit for the embarrassing retreat he took on the EP-3 downing, where he did not get the apology he wanted. We're going to continue our surveillance flights.

So, a second challenge to his leadership over arms sales would require a far more stronger response than would otherwise be the case, simply to protect his domestic position.

PHILLIPS: Alright, you mentioned the EP-3, let's talk about that plane. Do you think we are ever going to see that plane again?

ROSS: We might, but after a long time when the Chinese are done looking at it. There was a similar case when we captured a Soviet war plane during the Cold War and the Soviet's got it back in boxes and pieces. The Chinese presumably would like to do the same. The difference is, however, that we know where that plane is, we're watching it, and should the Chinese move it, it would indeed create headlines in the United States.

PHILLIPS: With regard to the reconnaissance flights, talk this week going on, possibly curtailed, maybe an end to them. Is this even a possibility?

ROSS: Not a possibility, I think, for two reasons. One, we're perfectly within our rights to do what we wish in international waters. But second, it would be the wrong signal to China. Push around, create a little crisis, and we back off and do what you want. This is not what we should be doing, and it's not what the administration will do.

PHILLIPS: Well, a new ambassador is expected to be named to China real soon. What can you tell us about that and what do you expect?

ROSS: Well, I think he's well-qualified for the position. He's not a China-hand, if you will. He's not a career foreign service officer. But he has long experience in China doing business work, investments, and he speaks the language well, and he understands the local scene.

Added to that, he's George Bush's roommate from his days at Yale. And it doesn't hurt to have an ambassador in a very sensitive country be able to pickup the phone and call the president.

PHILLIPS: Would not hurt a bit. Alright, Bob Ross from Boston College, thanks so much.

ROSS: My pleasure.

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