A senior U.S. senator said on Wednesday that Chinese leaders had offered to reposition at least some of their military forces opposite Taiwan in a move that could ease cross strait tensions.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, who visited China and Taiwan earlier this month for talks with leaders on the both sides, did not spell out what such a redeployment might entail or what types of troops or military hardware could be involved.
Feinstein, a Democrat, made the comments at a Senate hearing where she asked U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates what substantial steps China would have to take to get the Pentagon to reconsider future arms sales to Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.
Feinstein called those arms sales "a substantial irritant" in relations between Washington and Beijing, and predicted they would continue to be so.
After the Obama administration notified Congress in January of plans to sell Taiwan up to $6.4 billion in arms, China broke off military-to-military contacts with the United States. Earlier this month, China took the extraordinary step of turning down a proposed fence-mending visit by Gates.
The defense secretary defended the arms sales, saying they were mandated by an act of Congress and have been backed by successive U.S. administrations for more than 30 years.
He also cited as justification for the sales what he called an "extraordinary Chinese deployment of all manner of cruise and ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan on the Chinese side of the strait."
Feinstein responded: "In my meeting with some of the leadership, it was mentioned that China had offered to redeploy back. Now I understand the word 'redeploy' isn't 'remove'. And I understand the nature of what's there and the number of troops."
She did not elaborate and her aides were not immediately available to comment.
Gates said it was up to Congress and the White House to decide whether to change the way arms are sold to Taiwan.
"The bottom line is the decision on Taiwan arms sales is fundamentally a political decision," Gates said.
"This is not a decision that's up to the Department of Defense. It is a decision that is up to the political leadership of the United States in terms of what would be required in order to change our approach with respect to the execution of that law or change that law if it's necessary."
ReutersLast Mod: 16 Haziran 2010, 21:09