FBIS Report: PRC Media Response to Taiwan Nuclear Weapons Debate Low-key
Friday, November 12, 2004(FBIS Report) Beijing has not responded officially to claims by a Taiwan legislator that Chen Shui-bian's government is planning to develop nuclear weapons or to the debate in Taiwan media prompted by his remarks. However, commentary appearing on official websites and in papers affiliated with mainstream party dailies has implied that Taiwan may be developing nuclear weapons and, in one case, recommended a strong Beijing response. To date, neither China's official press agency Xinhua, nor the party paper Renmin Ribao has been observed to report on the issue. The only report known to have been carried by mainstream central media appeared on the website of Beijing's news service for overseas Chinese, Zhongguo Xinwen She, on 14 October. The news service reported, without comment, Taiwan legislator Nelson Ku's allegations and Taiwan Premier Yu Shyi-kun's denial that Chen had set up a five-person team to plan a nuclear weapons program. The sparse commentary that has appeared on the issue in China's less authoritative, state-controlled media, however, has implied that Taiwan may be considering a nuclear weapons program.
-- In the strongest such example, an article posted on a popular discussion forum hosted by Renmin Ribao's news portal Renmin Wang denounced Chen's "vain attempt" to develop nuclear weapons as part of his "pipe dream" of resisting unification by military means (21 October). Suggesting leadership approval of the article, Renmin Wang highlighted it as one of the top 15 essays of the day; it was submitted by a regular contributor who writes under the pseudonym Zhen Duo. -- Entitled "Taiwan is Using Empty Blackmail," the article quoted former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui as stating in 1995 that Taiwan should re-examine the issue of nuclear weapons and claimed that Lee "secretly ordered the resumption of Taiwan's nuclear weapons research program." It also claimed that Chen "fantasized" that he could gain tacit US consent for a nuclear weapons program and had "sent his lackey to the United States to "sound out" this possibility from his "US boss." -- The article urged a low-key response to reports of Taiwan's nuclear plans in order to avoid inciting Taiwan's population, while at the same time calling for "exposing the sinister intentions of the Taiwan authorities." It advocated issuing a "stern warning" to the international community regarding Taiwan's threat and warning Taiwan that if it "acts with willful disregard" China will "attack its nuclear facilities." It concluded that "we should explain our stand and then observe calmly."Popular papers published by mainstream party media organs underscored previous Taiwan efforts to develop nuclear weapons, implying that reports of Taiwan's current nuclear weapons plans may be accurate.
-- An article carried by a highly nationalistic Renmin Ribao-affiliated paper, Huanqiu Shibao, on 15 October laid out a detailed history of Taiwan's nuclear weapons programs since 1950. The article stated that in 1950 the United States and Taiwan planned to attack Xiamen with tactical nuclear bombs, but the United States later backed away from the plan. In the 1970's the United States forced Taiwan to end a nuclear weapons program established by Chiang Kai-shek in the late 1960's under the auspices of the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST). The United States again forced Taiwan to end a nuclear weapons program "secretly" restarted by Chiang Ching-kuo in the 1980s when a nuclear scientist, Chang Hsien-i, defected to the United States with the information. It claimed that even during Lee Teng-hui's tenure, the words and actions of officials raised suspicions that his administration had resumed the nuclear weapons program. The article concluded that although Chen Shui-bian has publicly committed to a "nuclear-free home" and never developing nuclear weapons, Taiwan media suspect Chen is playing word games and may want to develop nuclear weapons to prevent unification. -- A "special contributor article" in a weekly journal published by the CPC's China Youth League also reviewed the history of Taiwan's nuclear weapons programs on 27 October (Qingnian Cankao). The author, Xi Qingshan of the Nanjing Army Command College, asserted that "Taiwan's development of nuclear weapons has long been an open secret." He wrote that Chiang Kai-shek was shocked in 1964 by the PRC's detonation of a nuclear bomb and demanded the United States destroy its facilities. Chiang also initiated the "Hsinchu Project" to develop nuclear weapons, which received technical assistance from Israel and the United States. In 1971 Taiwan withdrew from the IAEA in order to hide its uranium enrichment activities, but in 1972 President Nixon forced (Premier) Chiang Ching-kuo to publicly renounce nuclear weapons. A discovery in 1976 by international inspectors that 500 grams of plutonium had disappeared from Taiwan nuclear energy facilities forced Taiwan to end its nuclear weapons program. After succeeding his father, Chiang Ching-kuo began a second program and by 1987 Taiwan was only one or two years away from producing a nuclear bomb. In January 1988, CSIST scientist and "CIA spy" Chang Hsien-i defected to the United States and newly inaugurated Lee Teng-hui was forced to abandon the nuclear weapons program once again.Some mainstream central media have included speculation on Taiwan's nuclear program in reporting on related issues since the nuclear weapons story broke in Taiwan.
-- Renmin Ribao's online English newspaper on 8 November reported Taiwan media as claiming that Taiwan intends to build Asia's largest missile base and speculated that the base might "even" house "nuclear weapons." -- In a CCTV-4 interview on an alleged secret shipment of missile parts to Taiwan, Chen Hu, the chief editor of the PRC's "World Military Magazine," said he "suspected" that Taiwan "may be considering developing weapons of mass destruction or even nuclear weapons" (28 October).Reportage With No Commentary A number of popular metropolitan papers affiliated with prominent provincial party committees have carried a variety of reports from Taiwan and other media but have not added commentaries of their own.
-- A Guangdong party committee paper, Nanfang Dushi Bao, on 16 October reported that the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense spokesman Huang Sui-sheng said Taiwan will never develop or store nuclear weapons. It also said Taiwan's Atomic Energy Council Vice Chairman Yang Chao-yie admitted Taiwan had performed experiments with plutonium as a source of nuclear energy up until about 1980, but ended them due to pressure from President Carter. -- On 22 October Guangzhou party paper, Xin Kuai Bao, cited a 13 October Associated Press article as reporting that the IAEA said Taiwan was performing plutonium separation experiments up until about 20 years ago.The paper also quoted the president of the Washington think tank Institute for Science and International Security as saying that "if Taiwan were to develop nuclear weapons, it would be suicide."
-- In addition, a number of official party committee dailies picked up reports from various Taiwan and Western news sources and relayed them without comment. These included Beijing Qingnian Bao, the paper of the Beijing party committee's Communist Youth League, and such provincial party committee papers as Fujian Ribao and Nanjing Ribao.