Bush issues warning to Taiwan, waves white flag on tax cuts
WASHINGTON (AP) – In unusually blunt terms, President Bush warned China that an attack on Taiwan could provoke a U.S. military response. ”The Chinese have got to understand that is clearly an option,” he said Wednesday.
In an Associated Press interview as he neared the 100-day mark in his presidency, Bush also acknowledged for the first time that Congress won’t approve his $1.6 trillion, 10-year tax-cut plan. ”I’m a practical man,” he said.
Bush said the tax cut must exceed $1.2 trillion – the number approved by the Senate in its defeat of his overall plan – and he declared himself open to compromise on the details.
”I want everything done the way I say it, but it turns out that’s not what generally happens in a democracy,” Bush said with a sardonic grin.
He cracked wise throughout a 30-minute interview, seeming to enjoy the chance to review his first months in office with the 100-day benchmark falling on Sunday. Bush struggled with a slightly hoarse voice and his eyes seemed a bit puffy, perhaps due to a cold or allergies.
The session took place in the president’s private dining room, just off the Oval Office. Hanging on one wall was a huge portrait of President John Quincy Adams, who followed his father to the White House. Bush said the picture is a reminder of the needling he gets from his own father, the nation’s 41st president who occasionally jokingly calls him Quincy.
”I want to have Quincy watching over me,” Bush said.
The lighthearted mood shifted when the president was asked about U.S.-Chinese relations strained by the diplomatic standoff over a downed American spy plane and by his decision to sell arms to Taiwan.
He answered quickly when asked whether America would use military force to counter a Chinese attack.
”It’s certainly an option,” he said. ”The Chinese have got to understand that is clearly an option.”
The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act requires Washington to provide Taiwan with ”such defense articles and defense services … as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.”
For decades, U.S. administrations have issued vague statements on whether the United States would actually go to war with China over Taiwan, as opposed to arming Taiwan well enough to enable the island to defend itself.
China considers Taiwan a breakaway province that must be reunited with the mainland.
In Beijing, there was no immediate reaction to Bush’s remarks, though China did object to his plans to sell arms to Taiwan. Vice Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told the U.S. ambassador that the sale should be canceled on grounds it would seriously affect U.S.-Chinese cooperation on arms control and damage ties between the two nations, state television reported.
Bush hedged when asked if his view on military force would change if Taiwan provoked China by declaring its independence from Beijing.
”I will certainly hope that Taiwan would not do such. Our policy is a one-China policy – that the two nations can resolve their disputes peacefully. And we need to work with the Taiwanese so that does not occur – the breach of the one-China policy.”
While Bush referred to China and Taiwan as ”two nations,” Taiwan is not an independent country.
”The United States must make it clear to China that we will uphold the spirit of the Taiwan Relations Act. Having said that, I believe this difference can be resolved peacefully,” Bush said.
In an interview that began with a tour of his patio and pool, Bush also:
-Declined to say whether he will run for another term. ”It’s way too early.”
-Said he will insist that any minimum wage increase package passed by Congress doesn’t hurt small businesses. Notably, he did not reiterate his demand that states be given the power to opt out of minimum wage hikes.
-Said he would raise as much money as possible for Republican congressional candidates, though he said he didn’t know if his political team has committed the White House to a specific dollar amount.
Bush promised not to use the White House as a ”fund-raising mechanism.” Without mentioning Bill Clinton, he denounced the former administration’s practice of inviting some donors to spend the night in the Lincoln Bedroom.
But he had no criticism for Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, who recently provided ”legislative updates” for Republican donors targeted by the GOP.
”Our Cabinet secretaries are going to do some politicking,” Bush said. Asked to explain the difference between what Clinton and Thompson did to raise money, the president said, ”There’s something sacred about the Lincoln Bedroom and the White House.”
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