Li Zhaoxing Criticizes U.S. Helms on Taiwan

The consequences would be worse than the 1995 visit of Taiwan's Lee Teng-hui to the U.S. if the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act (TSEA) becomes a U.S. law, said Chinese Ambassador to the United States Li Zhaoxing, refuting remarks on Taiwan by Jesse Helms, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In his letter to Li dated on February 9, Helms said he was "aghast" at the remarks by Minister Liu Xiaoming of the Chinese Embassy on TSEA passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month. "Such rhetoric from the second-ranking Chinese official in the United States requires clarification," Helms said.

In a reply letter dated on Sunday, Li said, "Having reviewed the relevant transcripts and notes, I arrived at the conclusion that Mr. Liu said nothing wrong or inappropriate at our February 3press conference."

"Our strong opposition to TSEA is totally justified," said Li, citing three reasons: the bill negates the "one China" principle and undermines the basic framework of China-U.S. normalization; it violates U.S. pledges under the three China-U.S. joint communiques; it fans up a scare about the false "China threat."

"If TSEA were made into law, it will further embolden the already recalcitrant separatist forces on Taiwan, destabilize Asia-Pacific situation and increase the chances of military confrontation in the Taiwan Straits," Li said.

"I am not sure if China-U.S. relations which both countries have worked so hard and so long to nurture can survive the explosive development that TSEA is destined to set in motion," he added.

At his press conference on February 3, Liu, the second chief of the embassy, warned that the consequences of putting TSEA into law would be more than China recalling its ambassador from Washington and worse than Lee Teng-hui's U.S. trip, which aroused tensions across the Taiwan Straits in 1995.

"The point he was trying to convey is that if TSEA should become law, the consequences would be even worse. I stand by this assessment," Li said.

In his letter, Helms also accused Liu of "personally" attacking U.S. congressmen and issuing "insults and threats" by "declaring that the educational level of the most members 'is only about the level of elementary school', while 'those 70 who voted against the TSEA, their understanding of Chinese affairs is only about high-school level'."

"As far as I can recall, he has never compared you or any of your Congressional colleagues to 'elementary school pupils'," Li said.

"The closest reference as I can think of is that some American scholars once made a remark, saying that even elementary school students know that Taiwan is part of China, but many politicians don't seem to know that fact," the ambassador noted.

"While pointing out the outrageous nature of TSEA, Mr. Liu expressed the belief that a lack of understanding of the bill's potential gravity and sensitivity on the part of some Congressmen was to blame for the vote result," Li added.

He stressed that it is a fact that some Congressmen did not have "adequate knowledge of the origin of the Taiwan question and the evolution of China-U.S. relations.'

Li cited Helms' letter as an example. "More than 20 years have passed since the U.S. recognized the government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, yet you are still referring to the Chinese province of Taiwan as 'Republic of China on Taiwan' and the leader of Taiwan as 'president'."

"It would be an understatement just to call this 'ignorance' or'lack of knowledge'," Li noted.

The TSEA, passed by the House on February 1, calls for substantial upgrading of the U.S.-Taiwan military relations and a big increase of the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, which Washington officially recognizes as one of China's provinces.

The Clinton administration, saying such a measure would destabilize the Asia-Pacific region, has indicated that it would veto such a bill if it was approved by the Senate.

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