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Beijing Criticizes Washington Over Bush’s Taiwan Remarks

By Frank Langfitt
THE BALTIMORE SUN -- BEIJING

A day after President Bush pledged that the U.S. military would defend Taiwan if China attacked, Beijing criticized Washington for making “erroneous remarks” and cautioned the United States not to further damage relations at a sensitive time.

At a regularly scheduled Foreign Ministry news conference, spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue also accused the United States of violating its long-standing “One China” commitment, which holds that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan and mainland China are part of it. However, when asked if Bush’s remarks constituted a change in U.S. policy or what concrete steps China might take in retaliation, she declined to answer.

President Bush rocked already shaky Sino-U.S. relations when he said in a Wednesday interview that the United States would defend Taiwan if China attacked the island as it has threatened to do in the past. While such a pledge has always been implied, Bush’s statements were the most explicit by a U.S. president in more than 20 years and came one day after news that Washington would sell Taiwan the biggest weapons package in nearly a decade.

Asked on ABC’s “Good Morning America” if the United States had an obligation to defend Taiwan if China attacked, Bush said Wednesday: “Yes, we do. And the Chinese must understand that.” Asked if the United States would use the full force of its military, Bush responded: “Whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself.”

Bush appeared to soften his pledge in other interviews, denying that the U.S. position had changed and voicing support for the “One China” policy, a legal fiction that has helped keep peace across the Taiwan Strait for more than two decades. But Bush’s remarks implied that he was taking a harder line against Beijing at a time when nerves between the two countries are already frayed after the Apr. 1 collision between a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese fighter.