Aide to US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to visit Taiwan: report
TAIPEI (AFP) Jun 02, 2004
An aide to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is to visit Taiwan in July, becoming the most senior active US military officer here in 25 years, in a trip likely to anger Beijing, a report said Wednesday.

Major General John Allen, in charge of Asia Pacific affairs in Rumsfeld's office, will meet with Taiwan military authorities, the Chinatimes Express evening newspaper reported in a dispatch from Washington.

It said the trip would mark a departure from the US policy, which bans Taiwan visits by any US generals on duty, the paper said.

Taiwan's defense ministry declined to comment on the report.

Washington shifted its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 but remains the leading arms supplier to the island, despite China's objection.

China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, which split from the mainland after a civil war in 1949, threatening to use force if the island seeks formal independence.

In a report released this week, the US Defence Department warned China was developing "credible military options" to prevent Taiwanese independence, including tools to discourage the United States from coming to the island's aid in a conflict with the mainland.

Pentagon analysts say Chinese missiles could feasibly destroy key Taiwanese leadership facilities, military bases and infrastructure with minimal advance warning. Some are believed to be capable of hitting US military bases in Japan.

In 2001 US President George W. Bush caused a furor in China by saying that the United States would do whatever it takes to defend Taiwan, a statement seen by many as a departure from the long-term US policy of strategic ambiguity towards the island.

China was further irritated in 2002 when Tang Yao-ming, then Taiwan's defense minister, delivered the keynote speech at a military conference held in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Military ties between Taipei and Washington marked another step forward when a two-day military conference was held in Texas in February 2003, with topics focusing on Taiwan's strategic needs.