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Perry Says Second Carrier Task Force Moving to Taiwan

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

SANTIAGO, Chile, March 11, 1996 – The United States is sending a second carrier task force to the waters near Taiwan, said Defense Secretary William J. Perry.

A battle group centered on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz will steam to the region, where tension is building over Chinese military exercises and missile tests just off Taiwan. Taiwan is a selfgoverning island China claims as one of its provinces.

After firing three missiles March 8, Chinese officials announced they plan to continue livefire exercises in the strait between China and Taiwan. Perry called the tests political coercion designed to intimidate the Taiwanese prior to the island's election, March 23.

"They say in their public statements these are just normal, routine exercises and test firing. That's baloney," he said. "It's absolutely clear this whole set of maneuvers is designed to intimidate the Taiwanese and influence the election."

Before starting a sevenday trip to Latin America March 9, Perry said he met with National Security Adviser Anthony Lake and Secretary of State Warren Christopher. They agreed to substantially increase the U.S. naval presence off Taiwan.

"We're sending the Independence carrier task force that was up in Okinawa down to the east coast of Taiwan," Perry said. "We're having it reinforced by two other ships. We also agreed we'd send another carrier task force from the Persian Gulf to join the Independence task force."

U.S. relations with Taiwan are governed by a one China policy. In return, China has agreed not to use military force to resolve their claims on Taiwan.

Until recently, Perry said, relations between Taiwan and China seemed to be improving. Economic and cultural relations between China and Taiwan were increasing. In the last six to nine months, Perry said, relations have deteriorated because China believes Taiwan is determined to push for independence.

"They are trying to intimidate the Taiwanese before the election saying they should not vote for President Lee [Tenghui] or anybody else who supports independence," Perry said. "To make this point, they're conducting this very largescale maneuver involving 15,000 military personnel right off the shore of Taiwan, including missile test firings that bracketed the island."

Prior to the missile tests, Christopher, Lake and Perry met with a senior Chinese official in Washington March 8. "We told him that if they took military action against Taiwan, it would have very grave consequences in the United States," Perry said.

The Chinese official said his government had no intention of taking military action, and the exercises would be over in a week or two, Perry reported. The official said China hoped to restore normal relations with Taiwan and the United States.

"My expectation is that the Chinese will finish their exercises, there will be no military conflict, and that will be the end of it," Perry said. "But if that's not the case, we will have rather substantial military forces there to deal with anything that develops."

The Nimitz battle group includes the cruiser USS Port Royal, destroyers USS Callaghan and USS Oldendorf, frigate USS Ford, oiler USS Willamette and ammunition ship USS Shasta. The Independence battle group includes the cruiser USS Bunker Hill and destroyer USS O'Brien, augmented by two Japanbased ships, the destroyer USS Hewitt and frigate USS McCluskey.

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