An excerpt from Secretary Christopher's interview on "Meet The Press," Sunday, March 10, 1996. Interviewer: Mr. Tim Russert.
MR. RUSSERT:...Let me turn to China. China, as you know, has now expanded its war games against Taiwan, firing missiles 20 miles off its shore. They are now going to close the Straits of Taiwan -- the body of water between Taiwan and Mainland China. What is the United States going to do? SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Tim, a question about China deserves a little longer than one sentence answer. First, we have enormous stakes in peace and stability in the western Pacific. We always have had, at least for the last 50 years. Elements of the Seventh Fleet are there. We have very important allies, particularly Japan and South Korea. We have been following a one-China policy with China. That is, that we say that there is a single China. But part of that has been a commitment on the part of the Chinese to deal peacefully with the issue of Taiwan -- not to solve that issue by force. What they've done in the last several weeks, I think, has caused some question about whether or not they intend to do that. The actions they've taken have been reckless. I think they've been risky. And the actions they've taken, I believe, smack of intimidation and coercion. So that is a situation of great concern to us. We've made it quite clear to the Chinese that if they try to resolve this problem through force rather than through peace, that will be a grave matter with us. We've made that as clear as we possibly can to them, because we don't want any miscalculation on their part. There's a high-level Chinese official in town this week. We spent hours talking with him, and we made it clear to him. We've told them in Beijing. We've told them here in Washington. We must, I think, make it clear to them that there will be really grave consequences if they try to resolve that problem through force. MR. RUSSERT: You say "grave." If in fact China attacked Taiwan, the United States of America would come and help Taiwan militarily. SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Tim, I don't want to get into operational details. What the Taiwan Relations Act has said and does say -- and that is really the law of the land -- is that there will be grave consequences if they try to resolve this by force, we'd consult very promptly with the Congress. We have real interests in Taiwan, and I don't want the Chinese to misunderstand about that. MR. RUSSERT: The carrier Independence is in the area. If the Chinese try to block the straits, will the United States Navy challenge that and sail through that? SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Tim, it certainly is not my place here on this program to get into operational details. I will say that carrier task forces have gone through that strait before. I will also say that we're concerned to make sure that those forces -- that carrier battle group -- are in a position to be helpful if they need to be. They'll be moved somewhat closer to Taiwan in future days. But as far as the operational details, I think it's better for me not to try to talk about them here today. MR. RUSSERT: But the Independence and others will be moved closer to Taiwan. SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Yes, that's right. MR. RUSSERT: You have engaged in a policy called "constructive engagement" towards China, saying we shouldn't necessarily link trade and human rights, and yet your own Department has now come forward last week with a report scathing -- about China's lack of human rights. Mickey Kantor, the U.S. Trade Rep, has said that China continues to steal American intellectual property, copying CDs and videos and not paying any royalties. When is it time to say, "Listen," to China, "you're threatening Taiwan. You're abusing people with human rights violations. You're not honoring American intellectual property. No more Most-Favored-Nation status with you."? Our policy in effect has failed. SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Tim, our policy has not failed. It may take longer to be effective. I've never said that trade alone would solve the human rights problems. I said it was an important element to that. But we have to keep in mind what's happening in China. It's a massive country, and it's in the process of a massive transition to a free-market economy. They're also undergoing a leadership transition. I'm not making excuses for China. I'm saying why China is important. It's a strategic weight of enormous size, and we have to treat it that way. There will be areas of disagreement, and we've had long conversations with the Chinese just this week, pointing out those areas of disagreement. But China is so important, we must find some way to manage those areas of disagreement. There are a number of areas where we have things in common. We can't forget that. They cooperated with us in dealing with the Korean nuclear threat. We need their cooperation on a comprehensive test ban. We need their cooperation at the United Nations Security Council where they're a permanent member with a veto. So we just can't make a list of things where we disagree and walk away. We have to stay engaged. Now, engagement doesn't mean that we make concessions or conciliate with them, but we've got to stay engaged. MR. RUSSERT: Well, we're not going to let them keep stealing our CDs and videos and not pay our actors and entertainers royalties. SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Absolutely not. We've got a pretty good record on that. Mickey Kantor's done a fine job, and we will follow the law there. MR. RUSSERT: When Saddam Hussein went into Kuwait, George Bush said, "This will not stand." If China went into Taiwan, would we let it stand? SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I'm not going to go beyond where I've been, Tim. If they made any kind of an effort to try to resolve that problem by force, it would have very grave consequences.
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Prepared for the National Federation of State High School Associations 1996 Showcase Debate on China
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Last Updated: March 12, 1996