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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with Phoenix Television

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
May 31, 2002

(Interview in Singapore with Anthony Yuen, Phoenix Television.)

Q: You are considered a hardliner toward China and Taiwan, but yet you also warned three times against Taiwan that they cannot get their independence. So is there any change of your policy, your attitude?

Wolfowitz: No, I think it's been very consistent over a long period of time and I was assistant secretary of state for East Asia under Secretary George Schultz. I believe the policy he said was the right policy which is we need to approach that issue with the insistence on a peaceful solution. Neither side can try to oppose its will on the other. That's why as President Bush has said, we have a one-China policy that consists of basically two principles. We do not support independence for Taiwan, we oppose the use of force, and we believe in that framework we can expect much more positive results in the long run.

Q: But during the past few years, Mr. Bush's attitude toward Taiwan is considered by China, pro-Taiwan, especially when your administration tried to provide more defensive weapons to Taiwan. Does that make China very uncomfortable? Do you think that policy is still there?

Wolfowitz: We've had a long-standing commitment which President Bush has reaffirmed very clearly to provide the defensive arms that Taiwan needs to provide for its security. That's not a threat to China unless China thinks that it can impose a solution by force which we think would be very damaging to everyone's interest including China's. But as we've said over and over again, we don't believe that either side should try to impose its will unilaterally, and the U.S. strongly supports efforts to resolve these issues peacefully.

Q: Just two weeks ago you delivered a speech on China policy. You also seem to us, you are softening your attitude toward China and a little more warm on Taiwan. Is there any soft tone happened to you or do you think you have to change your attitude to Taiwan? China?

Wolfowitz: I think it's very clear when I say there's an enormous interest in a good relationship with China. China's a very important country. We have a lot of common interests with China and we want to work on those common interests. With respect to the Taiwan issue, we have been unequivocally clear in our position on the use of force and equally clear under this president that we don't support Taiwan independence, that neither side should impose its will in the matter. The president has created a better environment not only for relations across the street but also importantly for U.S./China relations.

In addition to that, we've had some good cooperation from China in the war on terrorism and we appreciate that. We've always been looking to improve our relations with China in the defense field -- the EP-3 a year ago clearly was a setback -- but the vice president who was in town, met with Secretary Rumsfeld in Washington. It was a good meeting. Rumsfeld is sending our Assistant Secretary of Defense Rodman to Beijing in the middle of June to talk about the principles on which we can get a military-to-military relationship on a more solid framework which will be of mutual benefit. We're very interested in bringing China into the mainstream of the Pacific region. We believe that China has a major, important, constructive role to play.

Q: So in other words, you don't consider yourself as hardliner towards China?

Wolfowitz: I really don't -- I don't at all. I will admit very clearly that I've always felt very firmly that force is not the solution to the problems between China and Taiwan, and it's very important to be very clear about that. I have worked very hard over many years to try to bring China into the Pacific and I believe we made progress.

Q: We seem to realize that the controversy between China and Taiwan is going on, debate is going on. What's the solution? Do you think that might be good? Of course it's peaceful solution, but what solution do you think they should go?

Wolfowitz: I think it's up to the two sides to work things out and I believe from a lot of experience that Asians have ways of working through problems that are sometimes much more creative than the ideas that we may come up with as outsiders. But in any case we don't believe it's our role to be in the middle of negotiations or to be proposing solutions.

Q: So in terms of the U.S./China relationship, what do you think the next step will be?

Wolfowitz: I want to be clear about one very important thing: I come from the Defense Department. I have a responsibility to help my secretary manage our military affairs, our security affairs. The responsibility obviously for U.S./China policy is with Secretary Powell and the State Department. They do a terrific job and we work quite well together. What I can tell you is what I just told you is as far as the military-to-military relationship, we believe that we are in a position to get our relations on a better footing even than they were before the EP-3 incident -- not only to recover from the damage of that incident but also we got a better footing. The step in doing that is the discussions that Peter Rodman will be having in Beijing. This is a very varied relationship with many issues on the table. Many of them are positive. Some of them are negative. We work across the board.

Q: So in general, the immediate co-operation between China and U.S. do you have any concrete step to normalize it or take it one step forward?

Wolfowitz: -- military contacts are all aboard except for a brief period immediately after the EP-3 incident, there's no question of that incident setting things back. We believe that the contact between American military personnel and Chinese military personnel can reduce misunderstanding on both sides and can help build a better basis for co-operation when opportunities arise. So we'd like to enhance those opportunities for interaction but we believe that to be successful we have to have principles of transparency and reciprocity. It's very important that there's mutual benefit to both sides and those are the kinds of details that Mr. Rodman will be talking with his Chinese counterparts in Beijing.

Q: In terms of the spy flight to China, are you still keeping that going on now?

Wolfowitz: I'm not sure of the clearness of your question, but if you're talking about a reconnaissance plane, they're not spying, they're doing normal legal surveillance of the ocean space, and many countries including China do it regularly along our coast. We think frankly it's part of the basic idea of transparency. The more each country knows about what the other one is doing the less danger is there is I believe of misunderstanding and confrontation.

Thank you.