|China lists conditions for backing U.S. drive Support linked to policies on Taiwan, Tibet
John Pomfret Washington Post Wednesday, September 19, 2001
Beijing -- China sought yesterday to link its backing for a U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign to a demand that America support China's own fight against separatists in Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhu Bangzao, said China is willing to discuss proposals to combat terrorism around the world, but in the context of the U.S. Security Council. He added that any U.S. military retaliation for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington would need "concrete evidence," should adhere to international law and should not hurt innocent civilians.
The statements from Zhu, at a news briefing, provided the clearest signs to date on the limits China intends to impose on its support for America's declared war on terrorism. The Chinese position followed a trend among many governments that have lined up with the United States to combat terrorism but added their own cautions about what actually should be done.
Like many of those countries, China hopes to wrest policy changes from the United States in exchange for its support. Specifically, China wants changes in America's long-term support for and arms sales to Taiwan; its moral support for Tibet's Dalai Lama, and its plans to create national missile defenses, according to Chu Shulong, an expert in security affairs at Qinghua University.
"The United States has asked China to provide assistance in the fight against terrorism," Zhu said. "China, by the same token, has reasons to ask the United States to give its support and understanding in the fight against terrorism and separatists. We should not have double standards."
Asked, however, if China had set specific conditions in exchange for its support, the Foreign Ministry spokesman demurred. "The fight against terrorism is a different issue," he said. "We are not making bargains here."
China's position is important to the United States because it occupies a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and arguably has the closest relations of any country with Pakistan, which has emerged as a key nation in the Bush administration's plans. Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi headed to Islamabad yesterday, and China's reaction to the crisis will be the key topic during the visit to Washington this week of Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan.
Because of its stand on nonintervention, China is uneasy and most probably would oppose the prospect of U.S. ground forces in Pakistan to topple the Taliban government in neighboring Afghanistan, Western diplomats said. It would also be nervous about U.S. troops using Central Asian nations to the north as a base of operations, they also said.
But China also views the attacks as an opportunity to improve what have become shaky ties with the United States. Yesterday's editions of the official China Economic Times carried an analysis predicting that the two countries would emerge from the crisis with closer ties.
China Sets Terms for Backing U.S. War on Terror (Reuters)
BEIJING, Sept 18 (Reuters) - China demanded U.S. support for its own struggle against ``terrorism and separatism'' -- shorthand for groups that include Taiwan independence advocates and the Tibetan Dalai Lama --in return for backing a U.S.-led war on terrorism.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao also said China was prepared to discuss any proposals to combat international terrorism at the United Nations Security Council, where it wields a veto as one of five permanent members.
But he insisted any military action in retaliation for last week's attacks on the United States would have to be based on ''concrete evidence,'' should not hurt innocent people and should be conducted within international law.
``The United States has asked China to provide assistance in the fight against terrorism,'' Zhu said.
``China, by the same token, has reasons to ask the United States to give its support and understanding in the fight against terrorism and separatists,'' he said.
``We should not have double standards.''
China is battling what it calls ``terrorists'' waging a violent campaign against Chinese rule in the far western Muslim region of Xinjiang.
It reviles the Dalai Lama, who is struggling for greater autonomy for his Himalayan homeland, as a ``splittist.'' State media have accused him of plotting bombings and assassinations in Tibet.
On self-governing Taiwan, Beijing reserves its fiercest wrath for former
President Lee Teng-hui, whom it accuses of plotting to split the island from China.
It is also intensely suspicious of current Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian for his past open advocacy of independence.
Asked whether China was imposing specific conditions for its support for the United States, such as an end to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, Zhu said: ``The fight against terrorism is a different issue. We are not making bargains here.''
But he went on to say the United States and China had ''common interests'' in combating Taiwan independence activists he said presented the main threat to stability across the Taiwan Strait.
``We should stem the development of Taiwan independence forces,'' Zhu said.
Zhu reiterated China's support for the war on terrorism.
``We should crack down on all international terrorism,'' he said.
But he qualified his statement by making clear China expected the United Nations to be consulted on any action.
``China is willing to discuss in the United Nations Security Council any proposals against terrorism,'' he said.
``An attack against terrorism should be based on concrete evidence and have clear orientation without hurting innocent people,'' Zhu said.
``We believe all activities should go along with international law, especially the U.N.. charter.''
For China, Terrorism Fight a Double-Edged Sword (GIR)
The Global Intelligence Report 20 September 2001
Beijing has offered to share information on suspected terrorists with Washington as part of a proposed anti-terrorism coalition. Meanwhile, Chinese officials have asked Washington to provide "concrete evidence" before striking back at those suspected of planning and assisting the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. Chinese officials are torn between joining international cooperation -- which could help to prevent similar attacks in China -- and fears that any unilateral responses by Washington could trigger a wider war that could spread through Asia.
Speaking at a conference of Asian and European police officials Sept. 19, Jia Chunwang, China's minister of public security, said China was committed to the international battle against terrorism. Jia's comments followed those of another ministry official who warned that countries should not disregard international law when launching attacks "under the pretext of 'anti-terrorism.'"
Beijing's simultaneous offers of assistance and caution against unilateral actions will continue. Chinese officials are concerned that domestic Islamic separatism may intensify in the wake of the attacks on the United States and any counterstrikes by Washington. Although Beijing seeks international assistance and justification for its crackdown on the Islamic ethnic Uighurs in its western provinces, it fears Washington setting an international precedent for unilateral actions against sovereign nations, something that could work against China in the future.
China's cooperation in the proposed coalition against terrorism opens the door to new forms of cooperation between Beijing and Washington, particularly in Southeast Asia. For Beijing such cooperation may also bolster China's efforts to quell the spread of militant groups from Central Asia into western China, where officials believe they have links to the Muslim Uighur population.
Beijing recently intensified its crackdown on potential Uighur separatists in the northwestern Xinjiang province, particularly under the guise of the "Strike Hard" campaign, which is meant to counter the rise of violent criminal groups. Uighur communities have been targeted in other areas of the country as well. In 1999, government officials razed the traditional "Xinjiang Village" in Beijing under the guise of street improvement.
It is not only the Uighurs that concern Beijing. Recently violence broke out in the eastern Shandong province, after a shopkeeper's display of "Halal Pork" offended the local Muslim community. Police opened fire on a group of nearly 300 ethnic Hui Muslims from nearby Hebei province who had come to protest; five were killed and several injured, according to reports from the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. Beijing also keeps a wary eye on southern Yunnan province, where the government fears the spread of Islamic militancy from Southeast Asia.
China has long been criticized for its human rights practices, particularly against minority ethnic and religious groups. Beijing hopes to gain international assistance and even support for its crackdown on potential and suspected Islamic separatists and militants. But such cooperation is not without risks.
Because there is no internationally recognized definition of terrorism, Chinese interpretations can differ markedly from those of the United States. To Beijing the Dalai Lama could be considered a terrorist or separatist for giving moral support to Tibetan independence movements. Yet to Washington, China's own actions in Tibet could be viewed in a similar way.
For Beijing, then, participating with an anti-terrorism coalition minimizes the chances of Washington's definitions and retaliations becoming the accepted global norm. Beijing fears the coalition against terrorism could evolve into a coalition against any number of things, which could eventually lead to interference in China's own internal political issues.
Even more pressing for China, however, is preventing the United States from triggering a broader Islamic militant war. Regional media have already linked the Uighurs to Osama bin Laden and Pakistani militants, and China has long worried that they have ties to other Central Asian groups. With major Islamic communities spread around the nation, Beijing wants to avoid a repeat of the attacks in New York City and Washington in Shanghai or Beijing.