21 July 1995 to 23 March 1996
The "one-China policy" had its origins in 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek moved the seat of his defeated Government to Taiwan. Chiang in Taipei, and Mao Zedong in Beijing, both maintained that there was only one legitimate government of China, with authority over both the mainland and Taiwan. When America switched recognition to the it continued to honor the formula, and thus has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan. The one-China concept has been the cornerstone of normalized relations between Beijing and Washington.
The long-standing United States position is that the issue of reunification be handled by the Chinese people on both sides of the straits, but that policy was founded on the understanding that the question of Taiwan would be resolved peacefully. The leadership in Beijing never renounnced to possible use force against Taiwan, and China has threatened to use force against Taiwan under various scenarios, including Taiwan's construction of nuclear weapons; a revolt on the island; or a declaration of independence, even if that declaration is the outcome of a democratic process such as a plebiscite or democratic elections. Under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, any threat to the peace and security of Taiwan is of grave concern to the United States. The act explicitly states that the United States is obliged to make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient defense capability.
Although American naval forces had not been involved in the Taiwan dispute since the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act, an encounter in 1974 set the stage for subsequent events in the Taiwan Strait. Beginning on 27 October 1994 the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk was involved in a three-day running encounter with a Chinese Han-class nuclear attack submarine in the Yellow Sea, 100 nautical miles west of Kyushu, Japan. American anti-submarine aircraft spotted the Chinese sub some 450 nautical miles northwest of the Kitty Hawk, and thee Chinese dispatched jet fighters which intercepted the US planes. The encounter continued until the sub came within 21 miles of the Kitty Hawk, and ended when the Chinese submarine broke off contact and returned to base.
The following year Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui concluded a private trip to a Cornell University reunion. President Lee's visit to his alma mater on 9-10 June 1995 marked a bold, symbolic step out of Taiwan's decade and a half of official international isolation. And his repeated use of the terminology "Republic of China on Taiwan" was taken by Beijing as a challenge to the "One China" formulation. In response, the PRC conducted tests of six missiles from July 21 to 26 in an area only 60 kilometers north of Taiwan's Pengchiayu Island. The tests came amid a flurry of mainland Chinese invective denouncing the private visit of President Lee Tang-hui to Cornell University. The missiles were all MTCR class four short range and two intermediate range. All were modern, mobile, nuclear-capable. At the same time, the PLA mobilized forces in coastal Fujian Province and moved a number of Jian-8 aircraft to the coast. The result was predictable--the stock market and the local currency in Taiwan fell precipitously.
The People's Republic of China announced a new series of guided missile tests in the East China Sea between August 15 and 25, 1995. While similar tests are a usual part of the annual training exercises of the Chinese 2d Artillery Corps, these were the only times in many years that the tests have been announced publicly. In conjunction with the tests, Taiwan intelligence reported that the PRC was planning on conducting a joint sea-air military exercise codenamed `Jiu-wu-qi' and that on July 16 the PRC Air Force stationed a number of F-7 or F-8 aircraft at airports located within 250 nautical miles of Taiwan --a highly unusual and provocative move.
As of early 1996 Beijing had redeployed forces from other parts of the country to the coastal areas facing Taiwan and set up new command structures for various kinds of military action against Taiwan. Allegedly, the People's Liberation Army prepared plans for a missile attack against Taiwan consisting of one conventional missile strike a day for 30 days. These strikes were to take place just after the March 1996 Presidential elections.
In early March 1996 China began a week-long series of ballistic missile tests and announced it will conduct an additional set of live fire military maneuvers as well. Together they constituted the fourth set of major military exercises the People's Liberation Army had undertaken in the straits since July 1995. On March 5, 1996, the Xinhua News Agency announced that the People's Republic of China would conduct missile tests from March 8 through March 15, 1996, within 25 to 35 miles of the 2 principal northern and southern ports of Taiwan , Kaohsiung and Keelung. On March 9, China announced plans to conduct live-ammunition war exercises in the Strait of Taiwan until March 20.
The missile tests off the shores of Taiwan were the third test series since Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hut visited the United States in June 1995. When China conducted similar missile tests in July and August of 1995, the target areas were 85 and 80 miles north of Taiwan, respectively. By contrast, the target zone for the surface-to-surface missiles fired in March 1996 were only half as far from Taiwan, and far too close to major airline and shipping routes. Of the three missiles launched, two landed near the port of Keelung which is only 23 miles from Taiwan's northern coast and approximately 30 miles from Taipei, Taiwan's capital. The third missile landed in a target zone near the port of Kaohsiun, which is only 35 miles from Taiwan's southern coast. Over 70 percent of commercial shipping enters Taiwan through these two port cities. The proximity of these tests to the ports and the accompanying warnings for ships and aircraft to avoid the test areas resulted in the effective disruption of the ports, and of international shipping and air traffic, for the duration of the tests. The escalation in both scope and nature of the March exercises raised the risk that conflict could start through miscalculation or accident. The People's Republic of China ended the missile tests as scheduled on March 15 and one of its naval exercises on March 20, and the People's Republic of China indicated that it did not plan to attack Taiwan.
These tests, and the military exercises that preceded them last year, were clearly meant to intimidate the people of Taiwan in the run-up to the presidential election. On March 23, 1996, the people of the Republic of China on Taiwan elected Lee Teng-hui as their first directly elected President. President Lee had served as the President of the Republic of China on Taiwan since 1988. Taiwan's electorate demonstrated to Beijing that its bellicose campaign of threats and intimidation was ill-conceived and ineffectual. Rather than diminishing support for President Lee, as Beijing and the PLA had hoped, the People's Republic of China's round of missile tests and live-fire military exercises seemed only to have served to solidify his support; President Lee won with some 54 percent of the vote.
The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act proclaimed American support for the peaceful reunification of Taiwan and the mainland, and commited the United States to help Taiwan defend itself in case of Chinese aggression. On 19 December 1995 the US sent the USS Nimitz from the Eastern Pacific to the Taiwan Straits, the politically treacherous waterway between Taiwan and China. This marked the first time American ships had patrolled the straits since 1976.
The US Seventh Fleet monitored Chinese military live-fire exercises off the coast of Taiwan in March and April 1996. The forward-deployed Independence (CV 62) carrier battle group (CVBG), with embarked Carrier Air Wing Five, responded to rising tensions between China and Taiwan by taking station off the eastern coast of Taiwan. USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), operated south of Taiwan using its SPY-1 Aegis radar and other means to observe the missile tests. Other ships operating with the Independence included USS Hewitt (DD 966), USS O'Brien (DD 975), and USS McClusky (FFG 41). These forces provided a visible sign of US commitment to stability in the region.
The Nimitz (CVN 68) CVBG transited at high speed to arrive in the South China Sea within days, intensifying the signal of US resolve. As of 11 March 1996 Nimitz was participating in Operation Southern Watch in the Arabian Gulf, but a week later the carrier was in the Indian Ocean, en route to South China Sea. Accompanying Nimitz were USS Port Royal (CG 73), USS Callaghan (DD 994), USS Oldendorf (DD 972), USS Ford (FFG 54), USS Willamette (AO 180), USS Shasta (AE 33) and USS Portsmouth (SSN 707). Aircraft from Carrier Air Wing Nine were embarked with Nimitz. The Nimitz and six additional ships arrived near Taiwan before the 23 March presidential election.
Chinese Premier Li Peng warned Washington not to make a show of force by sending the Navy through the Taiwan Strait. Secretary of Defense William Perry responded with a boast that while the Chinese "are a great military power, the premier--the strongest--military power in the Western Pacific is the United States" -- but the US Navy kept away from the strait.
Subsequently, tensions in the Taiwan Strait diminished and relations between U.S. and China improved, with increased high-level exchanges and progress on numerous bilateral issues, including human rights, nonproliferation and trade. Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited the United States in the fall of 1997, the first state visit to the U.S. by a Chinese president since 1985. In connection with that visit, the two sides reached agreement on implementation of their 1985 agreement on the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, as well as a number of other issues. President Clinton visited China in June 1998.
As a measure to build up mutual trust, an Agreement between the Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China and the Department of Defense of the United States of America on Establishing a Consultation Mechanism to Strengthen Military Maritime Safety was signed by General Chi Haotian, Minister of National Defense of the People's Republic of China and Mr. William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense of the United States during the latter's visit to China on 19 January 1998. This was intended to improve the ability to deal with incidents at sea and increase mutual understanding of naval and navigational practices for both ships and aircraft, and to reduce the chances of miscalculation. Under the agreement, DoD and the Chinese defense ministry will meet annually to discuss mutual concerns that relate to activities at sea by their naval and air forces.
- Jan. 21, 1993 -- The ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs makes public the White Paper on ROC Foreign Policy. It stipulates that the ROC's foreign policy is one-China, two entities, and equality at the interim. The policy paper says that the government will pursue an international space, with a long-term goal of returning to the United Nations and the eventual goal of China's unification.
- April 8, 1993 -- The first preparatory meeting for the Koo-Wang Talks is held in Beijing, and the two sides agree on the establishment of institutionalized communication channels. Some progress was made on cross-strait exchanges and dialogue.
- April 8, 1995 -- President Lee Teng-hui issues a statement at the National Unification Council, "Foster Normal Cross-strait Relations, Create a Favorable Climate for Unification." He introduces a six-point proposal for normalizing cross-strait relations.
- May 27-28, 1995 -- The first preparatory meeting for the Second Koo-Wang Talks is concluded with an agreement that the second preparatory meeting will be held in June, and the Second Koo-Wang Talks is slated for July in Beijing.
- June 7, 1995 -- President Lee departs for the United States for a private visit and returns to Taiwan on June 12. In between, Beijing publishes five articles to criticize Lee during his U.S. trip.
- June 16, 1995 -- Mainland China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) sends a letter to Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation [SEF] to postpone the second Koo-Wang Talks, saying it will contact us at an appropriate time.
- June 17, 1995 -- Taiwan's Mailand Affairs Countil [MAC] makes public a statement, expressing its hope that institutionalized negotiation channels will remain open, and that the second preparatory meeting of the Second Koo-Wang Talks will take place as scheduled.
- June 22, 1995 -- PRC Minister of Foreign Affairs Qian Qichen introduces a seven-point principle to handle the post-1997 relations with Hong Kong and Taiwan.
- June 30, 1995 -- ARATS telephones SEF saying that the institutionalized negotiation channels be postponed. Beijing's reason was that President Lee Teng-hui had accepted the invitation of his alma mater, Cornell University, to deliver a speech on "Taiwan's Democratization Experience."
- July 7, 1995 -- MAC issues a news release, stating that the ROC government always promotes a pragmatic foreign policy and mainland policy without conflicting with each other. The government will promote one policy not at the sacrifice of the other.
- July 7, 1995 -- Xinhua News Agency announces that the PRC military will launch missile tests and fire ground-to-ground missiles from July 21 to 28 on the high seas of the East China Sea. MAC immediately issues a news release to point out that the missile test will endanger the peace and safety of the Asia-Pacific area, hurt the feelings of the Taiwan people, and run against the common interests of the two sides.
- July 21~26, 1995 -- The PRC proceeds with the first missile shooting near Taiwan waters, launching a direct military threat against the ROC.
- July 23, 1995 -- People's Daily, quoting Xinhua News Agency, publishes the first commentary to accuse Taiwan leaders.
- July 24, 1995 -- People's Daily, quoting Xinhua News Agency, publishes the second commentary to accuse Taiwan leaders.
- July 25, 1995 -- People's Daily, quoting Xinhua News Agency, publishes third commentary to accuse Taiwan leaders.
- July 26, 1995 -- People's Daily, quoting Xinhua News Agency, publishes the fourth commentary to accuse Taiwan leaders.
- July 31, 1995 -- On the 68th anniversary of the establishment of the PLA, PRC Minister of National Defense Chi Haotian states that the PLA will never renounce the use of force regarding the issue of reunification. He says that if Taiwan authorities act without discretion to create a split, the PLA will never sit by and watch.
- Aug. 2, 1995 -- Quoting Xinhua News Agency, the People's Daily publish a criticism of ROC President Lee Teng-hui.
- Aug. 4, 1995 -- Quoting Xinhua News Agency, the People's Daily publish a criticism of ROC President Lee Teng-hui.
- Aug. 6, 1995 -- Quoting Xinhua News Agency, the People's Daily publish a criticism of ROC President Lee Teng-hui.
- Aug. 10, 1995 -- Xinhua News Agency announces that the PRC military will carry out a live ammunition exercise with guided missiles and cannons in the area of the East China Sea from August 15 to 25. MAC says this is an "unfriendly and irresponsible" move.
- Aug. 11, 1995 -- When interviewed by the China Times, MAC Chairman Vincent Siew states that the ROC government has a firm position against Taiwan independence, which has remained unchanged for many decades. However, mainland authorities always distort the ROC's position.
- Aug. 15~25, 1995 -- The PRC proceeds with the second wave of missile tests, threatening the ROC with military force.
- Sept. 9, 1995 -- On an inspection tour in Quemoy, ROC President Lee states that the ROC now stands on Taiwan, Penghu, Quemoy, and Matzu, a reality not to be denied by any one. The ROC government insists on adhering to the principles and stages established under the Guidelines of National Unification to pursue unification under the systems of democracy, liberty, and equal prosperity, and not under "one country, two systems."
- Oct. 21, 1995 -- In an interview with the U.S. News & World Report, Zhang Wannian, vice-chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission, says that if Taiwan declares independence, the PRC will certainly resort to force.
- Oct. 24, 1995 -- Representatives of the two sides reach agreement in the negotiation for Taiwan-Hong Kong aviation rights and sign into effect the minutes of the meeting. The document becomes effective Dec. 30, 1995.
- Oct. 24, 1995 -- U.S. President Bill Clinton and PRC President Jiang Zemin have a summit meeting, and reach an understanding that the Taiwan Strait issue will be dealt with in accordance with the three U.S.-PRC communiques.
- Nov. 24, 1995 -- Xinhua News Agency prints an article "China's sovereignty belongs to the entire Chinese people." It says that no matter what changes happen in the way the Taiwan leader is selected, nothing can change the fact that Taiwan is a part of China.
- Nov. 25, 1995 -- Xinhua News Agency announces that a joint landing maneuver staged in late November near Dongshan Island, Fujian Province, by the army, navy, and air force of the Nanjing Military Area Command, is concluded.
- Jan. 24, 1996 -- Premier Lien Chan reiterates that the ROC government does not wish to see cross-strait relation strained at issuing statements and creating publicity. The two sides should sit down and meet each other across the table to negotiate various issues. If the disrupted cross-strait negotiation channels could be resumed, issues of mutual concern will be able to be discussed.
- Jan. 30, 1996 -- The PRC celebrates the anniversary of Jiang's eight-point proposal. Li Peng makes a statement that only when Taiwan authorities abandon creating "two Chinas," or "one China, one Taiwan" both in rhetoric and in practice can cross-strait relation normalize.
- March 1996 --When the ROC held the first Chinese direct presidential election in March 1996, the PRC conducted three rounds of military exercises, launching missiles against Taiwan, with the objective of affecting the election.
- March 5, 1996 -- The PRC makes a statement in the early morning that it will launch a military exercise during March 8-15, firing ground-to-ground guided missiles into waters 20 to 40 nautical miles due east of Keelung, and 30 to 50 nautical miles due west of Kaohsiung.
- March 8, 1995 -- The mainland military begins to stage missile tests near the waters north and south of Taiwan.
- March 12, 1996 -- The PRC begins to stage live ammunition firing in a sea and air maneuver off the coastal areas stretching from Xiamen, Fujian Province, to Shantou, Guangdong Province.
- March 13, 1996 -- The PRC fires the fourth guided missile into the waters off Kaohsiung harbor.
- March 18, 1996 -- The PRC launches a joint force maneuver in the sea near Pingtan, Fujian Province.
- March 19, 1996 -- The PRC stages a landing exercise on a small islet.
- March 21, 1996 -- The PRC stages an air strike exercise.
- April 23, 1996 -- In Kampuchea, Liu Huaqing, vice chairman of the PRC Central Military Commission, reiterates that "Taiwan is an inseparable part of China." He insists on "reunification by peaceful means, one country, two systems" and that PRC will resort to the use of force should Taiwan declare independence or face foreign intervention.
- April 29, 1996 -- SEF writes to ARATS to suggest the resumption of the Koo-Wang Talks and institutionalized negotiation channels.
- April 30, 1996 -- ARATS responds negatively to the resumption of Koo-Wang talks and institutionalized negotiations.
- May 5, 1996 -- Chang King-yuh, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, says it is the PRC which erects barriers against the resumption of cross-strait negotiations. Since ARATS has replied negatively regarding the resumption of negotiations, the government will not seek other ways to express its willingness again.
- May 20, 1996 -- In his inaugural speech, President Lee notes the developments related to cross-strait relations. First, the two sides should face how to end the hostile status. Second, both should note the reality that the two belong to separate jurisdictions and accept the common goal of national unification 3. Both should open up a new situation in which "Chinese help Chinese."
- May 29, 1996 -- Xinhua News Agency publishes an article titled "The one-China principle is inevitable," with a byline of "Jin Xi," criticizing ROC President Lee's failure to mention "one China" in his inaugural speech.
- June 23, 1996 -- The spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council reiterates the "One China" principle.
- June 26, 1996 -- Giving an interview to the media while visiting in Spain, PRC President Jiang Zemin says that the two sides can enter into cross-strait negotiations for peaceful reunification and follow the principle of "One China" to terminate the hostility between the two sides. Asked to comment on a meeting between leaders of the two sides, Jiang says he welcomes the Taiwan leader to visit the mainland in an appropriate capacity.
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