TCS Daily

China Loses, Taiwan Wins

By James Woolsey - April 12, 2001 12:00 AM

Former CIA Director James Woolsey tells Defense Central that China "alienated a rather substantial share of the American Congress and the American people." U.S. should respond with "a very generous Taiwan arms-sale package."

Defense Central: Did China leverage its position in this standoff to score a win against the U.S.?

Woolsey: No, not at all. It's very important to notice what the "sorry"s refer to in our letter.

First of all, it's a letter only from the ambassador. Secondly, we say we're very sorry that the pilot is dead, and you can be very sorry that someone is dead, even if he was killed out of his own gross negligence. Finally, we say we are very sorry we didn't receive clearance to land. But we sent maydays and, presumably, requests to land, and we had no alternative except to land.

The media's focus on the difference between "sorry," "very sorry," and so forth is silly. The thing that's important is what the "sorry"s apply to.

By not recognizing China's right to deny us the ability to fly over the South China Sea, and by not apologizing for the accident -- both positions in which we're quite correct -- the Bush Administration got out with a minimal letter and brought our people home.

Although the PRC propaganda machine will play this up as an apology, the PRC failed miserably in its objectives, and it simultaneously alienated a rather substantial share of the American Congress and the American people. This was, on balance, a major loss for the PRC.

Defense Central: What must the U.S. do to protect crew members on future reconnaissance flights in international waters near China?

Woolsey: In the future, we still stay over international waters, but it might be wise to have some carrier-based fighter aircraft near these reconnaissance planes for a while just so the PRC gets the message.

Defense Central: Will the U.S. need to upgrade the equipment that was on the EP-3 in order to make future missions effective?

Woolsey: A lot of the equipment that is on these aircraft is just very good radio receivers and perfectly decent computers. There is some specialized equipment, but if the crew completed its destruction procedures for the data, clearing the memories of the computers, and so forth, the PRC, in reality, may have gotten relatively little.

There may be some things that we would want to change, but that really awaits the crew's debriefing. Presumably this is a well-trained crew, these things have been foreseen, and there are destruction procedures and procedures for jettisoning over water some equipment. If they went through all those correctly -- and there is no reason to think they didn't; they had 15 to 20 minutes to do so -- the PRC may actually have gotten rather little out of this aircraft.

Defense Central: How can the U.S. prevent future Chinese aggressions?

Woolsey: One bracing thing we could do is convince the PRC military that when they do things like this, they create more problems for themselves.

My first nomination would be for us to approve a very generous arms package to Taiwan, particularly including the Aegis Destroyers.

I would not move against them on trade. Trade, over the long run, will open up the PRC.

I thought even before this incident we should have been firm with them on human rights, and we should not have gone along with the Olympics being there. I certainly am not persuaded by this incident that we should change and support the Olympics going there or soft-pedal our human rights position.

But it seems to me our principal response ought to be to let the People's Liberation Army know that there is a price to them for this sort of behavior. A very generous Taiwan arms-sale package is the right principal response.

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