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Bush policy on Taiwan questioned in Flushing

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Despite President George Bush’s vow last week to defend Taiwan if China waged war against the island, some Chinese-Americans in Flushing are hesitant to believe he will keep his word in offering full military support to the Taiwanese.

“President Bush said he’ll help Taiwan, but who knows if he’ll actually do it,” said a 42-year-old man from Taiwan who identified himself only as Mr. Ho as he stood on the street in downtown Flushing.

In an interview on ABC’s April 25 “Good Morning America” show, Bush said the United States is obligated to protect Taiwan from China, and “the Chinese must understand that.” When pressed to elaborate further, Bush said the United States would do “whatever it took to help Taiwan defend (herself).”

The remarks came a day after the United States announced it would sell military equipment to Taiwan, including destroyers, submarines and helicopters, a move that caused consternation within the ranks of the mainland Chinese government.

In more than a half dozen interviews in downtown Flushing Monday, Chinese-Americans had a mixed reaction as to whether Bush would indeed defend the island, a full-fledged democracy, if China went to war with Taiwan.

“I hope that Bush will help Taiwan because I’m Taiwanese,” said Joanne Wang, 26, a bank employee. “I still have family there.” But she said the president’s remarks were empty and he might have made them largely because China is not likely to wage war against Taiwan.

Ho, who has lived in the United States for nearly eight years, said Bush may have made the statement in order to discourage China from considering the possibility of war. “President Bush said this so China can think about it before attacking Taiwan,” he said.

The Taiwan Relations Act, enacted by Congress in 1979, obligates the United States to help Taiwan defend itself but does not specifically prescribe the manner in which it should respond to an armed conflict. The act was worded to force Taiwan to be bolder in its own statements and to include all the political groups that have fought for the island’s independence.

But some interviewed Monday said the United States should not meddle in the affairs of Taiwan and mainland China, let alone get involved in a war.

“I think the United States is wrong for interfering,” said a 53-year-old man born in mainland China who gave his name only as Mr. Zhang. He said Taiwan should not try to become independent of China because if Taipei does, then “they’re only asking for trouble.”

Zhang’s comments echoed those made by others that Bush’s support for Taiwan might only be short-lived.

“There are two possibilities: one, either Bush is all talk and no action or two, the U.S. will actually help Taiwan with the allied forces of Japan,” Zhang said.

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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