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Report: US-Taiwan military hot line exposed
( 2003-09-28 09:39) (People's Daily)

A "Hotline to deal with military crisis" was set up between high-level officials of Taiwan army and the Pentagon in the latter half of 2002, disclosed a consultant with US think-tank Rand Corp.

The report about the hotline on Taiwan's United Daily News (UDN) September 15 further proves US-Taiwan military cooperation has gradually moved from previous US arms sales to tactics cooperation and strategic alliance.

When asked to comment on the hotline at a regular press conference on September 16, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan reiterated that the Chinese side always resolutely opposed any US-Taiwan military contacts and links. 

Kong also firmly demanded that the US side to earnestly keep its promises of adhering to the one-China policy, strictly observing the Three Sino-US Joint Communiques and opposing Taiwan independence.

According to the UDN report, the US got the idea to set up a military hotline in the 1996 Taiwan Straits crisis. 

The plan for establishment of this hotline began in the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, a Taiwan official was quoted as saying by UDN. The basic idea came from the United States, not Taiwan, added the official.

In 1996, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) held a large-scale military exercise in the Taiwan Straits and launched surface-to-surface ballistic missiles. The then US Clinton administration dispatched two aircraft carrier fleets to the open seas of eastern Taiwan.

After the eruption of the crisis, the US military strongly felt the lack of links and an emergency mechanism between themselves and Taiwan authorities. They proposed that the White House, while strengthening military exchanges with Taiwan, set up a "US-Taiwan military hotline", patterned on the hotline the United States established with the Chinese mainland. 

In the fall of 1996, this idea was put forward on US initiative at the "Monterey Talks" (the second channel of Taiwan-US military cooperation), aimed to cope with "contingency" and "emergency" events,  a US military personage not to be identified told the UDN.

The method of communication was a special telephone line. Taiwan army was asked to timely notify the U.S. of the situation in the Taiwan Straits and the movements of Taiwan armed forces.

However, after the then Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui and Yin Tsung-wen, "Secretary-general of National Security Committee" learned of US proposal, they hoped that this hotline could be upgraded from the military level to the "government level" in an attempt to develop substantive "diplomatic relations" with the US government while getting US military protection.

As Clinton was afraid that the US-Taiwan "government hotline" would provoke the Chinese government and influence the US-China relationships, the then US president clearly said "NO" to the Taiwan authorities after knowing Lee's response, the Rand consultant revealed. 

The U.S. decided that the "Monterey Talks" should include topic merely on military affairs, and US-Taiwan hotline be limited to military exchanges.

Lee Teng-hui, however, thought that the U.St. would finally agree to set up a "government hotline", so he gave the US proposal a "cold treatment". The US-Taiwan military hotline issue was thus put aside.

Under the arrangement, it is the Taiwan military that report to the U.S. about the situation in the Taiwan Straits and the military movement in the Chinese mainland via the hotline.

However, since George W. Bush became US President, the US-Taiwan military exchanges and cooperation not only have been expanded in area, but also have been upgraded in level. In March 2003, the US-Taiwan "Defense Summit" was held in Florida, US, and Taiwan's "Minister of Defense" Tang Yao-ming and US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz were present at the meeting. At the summit, the US side again raised the issue concerning the establishment of a military hotline.

After returning to Taiwan, Tang made a report to the high-level officials of Taiwan authorities. With approval from Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan army began to set up the "military hotline" connecting the US Defense Department. After Taiwan's "Vice-Minister of Defense" Kang Ning-hsiang accepted the "official invitation" from US Department of Defense and visited the Pentagon in September 2002, the US-Taiwan military hotline was officially opened.

After the opening of the hotline, both sides have tested it many times to ensure the smooth operation of the hotline. According to insiders, under general circumstances, it is Taiwan army that reports to the United States the situation in the Taiwan Straits, Taiwan military exercises and the mainland's military trends mastered by them; Sometimes US Defense Department also gets information about Taiwan army via the hotline.

In order to avoid provoking the Chinese mainland and influencing the trend of improving Sino-US relations, the United States asks Taiwan authorities not to give away any relative information.

However, this secret hotline was finally brought to light, which attracted the attention from all walks of life in Taiwan. Media inside and outside the Island not only reported this matter, but also kept a close watch on the "Ministry of Defense". US-Taiwan exchanges are proceeding normally within the framework of the Taiwan Relations Act, Huang Suey-sheng, spokesman for Taiwan's "Ministry of Defense", said on September 16 when questioned closely by the media. However, he avoided answering the question concerning whether or not there are military exchanges and cooperation and a US-Taiwan hotline.

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