U.S., China tensions are likely to mount

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 27, 2001

U.S. President George W. Bush isn’t mincing words. And he isn’t hedging on his &uot;options&uot; when it comes to U.S.-China relations.

In a bold move on Thursday, the president said that &uot;force is an option&uot; if the U.S. is compelled to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion.

The blunt statement ended decades of intentional vagueness by presidents questioned about the extent to which the United States would intervene to defend Taiwan.

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According to President Bush, we’ll fight if necessary.

Coming on the heels of his decision to sell arms to Taiwan – considered by China to be a breakaway province – and the detention of 24 U.S. military personnel after their spy plane crashed in China, the statement is a forceful assertion of the United State’s position.

And even though the president said he believes relations between the United States and China &uot;can be resolved,&uot; that resolution is likely to be difficult and tenuous. Issues as varied as trade tariffs to arms control to global warming hold potential for conflict between the United States and China. And, it seems as if all those issues are pushed to the forefront now – perhaps in part by President Bush’s approach to foreign relations..

President Bush’s at times brazen statements on foreign diplomacy are sure to raise the ire of Chinese leaders, as well as furor from his critics. And, we hope he won’t be forced to act on those statements.

But given the increasingly strained relations between China and Taiwan, along with the strained U.S.-China relations, this could prove a tricky triangle for Bush and an early test of both his foreign relations skills and the United States’ world influence.