Blowing the Whistle on Nuclear Plans
CONFIRMING TAIWANESE NUCLEAR DISCUSSIONS
I had received from a source in Taiwan an alarming Taipei Times editorial of August 13, 2004, titled “Taiwan Needs Nuclear Deterrent” (Appendix) and had circulated this to the U.S. government and others. And two weeks later, learning from another source that Taiwan had set up a highly secret committee under its national security adviser, Chiou I-jen, to investigate the feasibility of Taiwan becoming a nuclear power, I immediately began preparing to investigate.
Some reference was made, in the information received, to using the issue in bargaining with the United States for greater security guarantees. After all, the United States has pledged to help Taiwan in its defense but not to defend it. And in the past, Taiwan’s government had used the threat to go nuclear to get security concessions. For example, in 1998 an article in the Asian Wall Street Journal by Gerald Segal titled “Taiwan’s Nuclear Card” had said: “In order to forestall American efforts to push them into the arms of Mainland China, representatives of the Taipei government are embarking on a subtle campaign to remind the world that the Taiwanese military retains the option of completing the development of a nuclear deterrent.... They evidently hope that a nuclear card will force the US to reaffirm its commitment to protect Taiwan’s security, in order to avoid seeing the stand-off across the Taiwan Strait go nuclear.”
Taiwan had started thinking about a bomb in 1964 when the People’s Republic of China got one. It had been stopped by President Reagan in 1987. But Taiwan’s former President Lee Teng-hui had talked of renewing the program in 1995 when Beijing made a hostile military gesture.
In general, there was ample history of Taiwanese interest in nuclear weapons to support a concern. (Note)
History of Taiwan’s Interest in Nuclear Weapons
In general, there was ample history of Taiwanese interest in nuclear weapons to support a concern. (Note)
In sum, whenever Taiwan felt weak or threatened, it began to think about nuclear weapons. And in January 2000 even the DPP representative in Washington, Lai I-chung, was drawing conclusions from the Chechen war that Taiwan would “look for developing weapons of mass destruction, and a call to establish the long range weaponry such as ballistic missiles to build an effective deterrent against a Chinese invasion.” (Note)
Sept. 1: Advising the White House of the Unexpected Danger
After learning of the secret committee, I immediately asked for an appointment with the director of the Asian department of the National Security Council, Michael Green, on an “important national security issue.” On September 1, I was received for an hour and had a full discussion. I said the Taiwanese government was exploring the abandonment of a doctrine enunciated by former Defense Minister Tang more than a year ago (“We don’t develop, we don’t acquire, and we don’t use, nuclear weapons”). Green was alarmed and surprised and said he would check it out.
About that time, a high congressional official had told Chen Shui-bian that Chen now had very few friends in America. And Taiwan was losing friends in Europe and elsewhere. This could have been the reason why Chen was revisiting the notion of a nuclear weapons program. In general, it seemed that President George Bush was not pro-Taiwan but, on the contrary, thought Taiwan was a problem. Like his father, President George H.W. Bush (1989-2003), he was predisposed to be friendly to China.
I recommended sending Jim Leach out to Taiwan; he was not only the chairman of the House subcommittee reviewing Taiwan but also a former Arms Control and Disarmament staffer and had the right instincts.
The next day, while looking for more information on Taiwan, I learned from the rumor mill that IAEA was worried about Taiwan, which seemed to confirm my apprehensions. And so I urged the NSC to check with IAEA. And I spoke to an IAEA representative on September 7.
On Thursday, September 9, I met at the Metropolitan Club with Douglas Paal, director of the American Institute of Taiwan—in effect our ambassador to Taiwan. He was back in town for a tooth operation. He knew nothing about the exploratory committee. And he said that Taiwan had recently retired many nuclear engineers necessary for the project. He doubted that Taiwan could build the bomb and thought it did not have the nuclear material.
But he said that for the last several years Taiwan had been in touch with North Korea to try to find a place to bury its strategic wastes. This connection was not opposed by the United States because no one responded, in time, to a Taiwanese letter asking about it. As a consequence, perhaps in the future, Taiwan might be able to buy nuclear material through this channel with North Korea. (In 2006, I drew the Chinese government’s attention to this.)
It seemed that the PRC might be able to mount an invasion of Taiwan by 2007 and that war was a definite possibility. He did not think China would go for “teaching Taiwan a lesson” because things had gone too far for that. He talked of decapitation (i.e., the Chinese might just try to destroy the leadership of Taiwan).
Later, I learned that IAEA did inspect Taiwan through a trilateral agreement that had been set up when the United States stopped recognizing Taiwan as the representative of China. The State Department apparently sent someone with the IAEA delegation since Taiwan is not a member state of the UN.
Sept. 14: Reports of the Exploratory Discussions Not Hard To find
I left Tuesday morning, September 14, for Taiwan via Los Angeles and met, between planes, in L.A. with Cely Arndt of the Favrot Foundation and Louise Edgerton of the Edgerton Foundation. It was like a family reunion, and over tea we discussed how Catalytic Diplomacy was doing.
In Taiwan, the Parliament had voted unanimously to set up the investigation of Chen Shui-bian's election-eve shooting—over his veto.
A well-informed former official said the intellectuals and the KMT would be against nuclear weapons but that Taiwanese southerners might be for it. Asked which of the three reasons might be used by the government to investigate nuclear weapons, he said all of them (get the weapons; bargain with the United States; and cause trouble on the Mainland).
He felt Taiwan was losing friends because of a campaign to “light fires everywhere” on the cross-strait issue. This had not gone down well in the international community, and Taiwan was now seen as a troublemaker everywhere. The basic problem was that Chen Shui-bian shaped policies to get favorable media at home—not to get good policy results.
A KMT source said that Chen Shui-bian was looking for a confrontation and that the neocons in the United States were helping him. He noted that one of Colin Powell’s aides said that as many as 100 defense officials in Taiwan were giving the Taiwanese wrong messages.
Taiwan’s National Security Council
Deputy NSC Director Parris Chang—a hardliner put in place by Vice President Lu, evinced seemingly sincere opposition to nuclear weapons. But in the past, I had learned, he had supported using the idea against foreigners as a threat (“Don’t push us too hard”). So I didn’t trust him. And I was advised by a source of impeccable standing that a high former military official had told the source, “We still have a military project going on in the nuclear area.”
In discussions with a pollster, I was told that Chen Shui-bian might gain popularity on the nuclear issue. The trends in the country were toward Taiwanization, and the numbers of people saying they were Taiwanese had, for the first time, reached a plurality. Nation-building was continuing. Some 57 percent agreed with Chen Shui-bian that “Taiwan” was the right name. As to whether Taiwan was gaining or losing friends, he said that DPP took the view that “nobody recognizes us anyway so we might as well....”
Conservative American think-tanks had warned Chen Shui-bian to “take it easy.” But Taiwanese are often told that anything the United States said against Chen Shui-bian was done for “Chinese consumption” or to “appease China.” Most discussions in Taiwan were not meaningful, and everything was so spun that it was disillusioning. And whatever was said, Taiwan could always get supporters to say the opposite and the Defense Department would send a different message.
As to what would happen in Taiwan if the Chinese invaded, he agreed that people would just go get a new identity card.
How Feasible Were Nuclear Weapons for Taiwan?
A former government bureaucrat told me: “Even if there is government interest, they can’t do it for many reasons.” The reasons it could not be done were: funding; it couldn’t be kept secret from the press; the public didn’t want to spend the money; the United States would cut off nuclear support; and lack of structural capacity. But he said individual scientists might be continuing their research based on personal interest. Of the three reasons why the committee might have been created, he preferred “bargaining” with the United States.
He said Henry Ko had all the military questions in his hands and was like a family member to Chen Shui-bian and was about 44 years old. But nothing in this arena had been going on for ten years, and he would know because he had friends at the Institute for Nuclear Energy Research (INER). INER said that no team was working on this. It would take time to put it together. And the United States would stop it, anyway. The young scientists were more idealistic and wanted no military implications. The Taiwanese public would not support it because of the price tag.
A Holding Operation or a Secret Program: IAEA Can’t Tell
However, I had already learned from a non-Taiwanese source that INER was spending $2 billion NT per year to keep 800 scientists, engineers, and technicians doing mostly nothing. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), by contrast, had about 150 people. INER was being run out of Chen Shui-bian’s office by a young person, Dr. Lin, whose main qualification was loyalty to Chen Shui-bian. Basically, the #4 institute of Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology knew about implosion. They were in uniform. Graduates of the 1988 program, even retired people, were rehired. These INER scientists were doing some peculiar things. They wanted spent fuel to be processed. They still had enough spent fuel unaccounted for to produce 5 kilograms of plutonium, which is enough for one primitive bomb or five bombs with a higher technology. The only way to stop this was to close down INER. It was, in any case, neither academically productive nor commercially productive, and they did nothing for their $2 billion.
The rationales for INER were nuclear power logistic support and medical community support for radioactive pharmaceuticals. It would be wise, it seemed, to investigate what the cyclotron was doing—although $2 billion NT is spent each year, only $2 million NT a year of such pharmaceuticals was produced. The question was whether INER was a holding operation or a secret program. It could be either, but in any case IAEA seemed incompetent to deal with it.
Former High Official Calls It a “Probable Potential Bluff”
I met with a former very high official with direct knowledge of the situation some years ago. He said some kind of a committee to look into this issue was “news to me.” He confirmed that CIST had been set up in 1955 for the purpose of developing nuclear weapons. In 1972, Taiwan signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). He said “We were sincere then”. The Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CIST) kept what nuclear facilities they had but stayed where they were.
He said, “After the 1987 defection of Chiang, we signed an agreement to move backward and destroyed hardware. And this was checked each year by IAEA. But before the defection, the scientists had done computer simulation, and while they were uncertain that everything would work, they thought that, in 1988, they were six months away from a bomb. (Thus, he said, they were ahead of India, Pakistan, and North Korea.) But key personnel had left after the 1988 agreement not to continue. So if people were talking about nuclear weapons, it was probably a potential bluff.”
He said that, strategically, nuclear weapons would lead to self-destruction for Taiwan since one bomb could destroy the island but one bomb from Taiwan could not destroy China. He thought the majority of Taiwanese wanted peace but Chen Shui-bian and Lee Teng-hui were the troublemakers. The whole idea of nuclear weapons was very dangerous and would raise tension. It would just give an excuse to the PRC.
Adding to this, I unearthed a Foreign Broadcast Information Service report of January 7, 2000, quoting a former chief of the general staff of Taiwan, retired General Hao Pei-tsun, as saying that Taiwan had the capability to develop nuclear weapons more than ten years earlier. (Note)
The National Security Adviser Says “No plans, no intention, and no funding.”
In a 15-minute interview, Chiou I-jen, the national security adviser, denied that such a committee existed and said Taiwan had “no plans, no intention, and no funding” for such a project. Privately, I considered this formulation—“no plans, no intention, and no funding”—to be fully consistent with the rumor that a committee was studying the feasibility of such a course.
Chiou I-jen was at pains to warn me that taking this rumor seriously could “harm you” and raise questions about my judgment. I said, “My time is near anyway; after a dozen visits back and forth across the strait, the laws of probability meant I was doomed anyway.” I thanked him for his “assurances.” One source told me later that his wing of the DPP had once voted secretly that Taiwan needed nuclear weapons.
Was Laser Separation Going on?
I met with a scientist who knew a lot about laser separation. He doubted very much that anything was going on in this realm that he did not know about. Certainly he would move to stop it at once if he did. If people were talking about this in the Taiwan NSC, there was not much to talk about. He doubted that Chen Shui-bian would be foolish enough to set up an exploratory committee. At my request, he said he would be willing to talk to IAEA if asked but seemed unsure how he could help. He felt that Taiwan was forced backward in 1988 and was some years away. And laboratory feats would have to be carried out on an industrial scale. Nothing could be kept private, and much money would be required. It would be a shame, he felt, if a “small thing” were blown up into a big thing. (This was exactly what happened in South Korea some years before when small unauthorized experiments became a major scandal.)
A Brainstorm: Embedding Nuclear Prohibitions in Domestic Law
Looking at the newspapers at 6 a.m. on the Internet, it seemed that Jiang Zemin was turning in his resignation. If true, that would resolve an important worry. If the nuclear issue was to surface while the leadership struggle was on in China, it might help Jiang Zemin against Hu Jintao, which was something one would not want.
Thinking about this, I had one good idea. Cheating on the IAEA and the NPT violated international law. But it did not subject the violators to any domestic penalties. Perhaps the KMT might like to offer legislation that would make the NPT part of Taiwanese domestic law. KMT supporters would like this because they deplored adventurist tactics and because military authorities would testify that there was no useful role for nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, many in the DPP would support this because they were very antinuclear and didn’t want even atomic plants for energy. So such a law might actually pass. I decided to try this out on KMT strategists.
The Rumor Is Widespread
An old friend knew of the alleged NSC exploratory team with a slightly different list of members. He did not know of Tsai Ing-wen but, on the other hand, thought Deputy National Security Adviser Wang Shi-teng, whose portfolio was intelligence, was on it.
My friend agreed that the Taipei Times editorial was the tip of an iceberg. He himself had heard of the NSC committee from a newsman and thought the committee was set up in June after the inauguration.
He did not know of any secret atomic project, but, if it existed, it was probably working on enrichment.
He said that senior media people knew there was a secret agenda in search of nuclear weapons as early as June—the search being on because it would be hard to compete with China militarily. He thought it was more likely to be a bluff designed to leverage bargaining with the United States than it was to be a reality.
September 20: AEC Chief Sincerely Opposed to Nuclear Weapons
I went to see the minister in charge of the AEC, Min-Shen Ouyang, who had worked at INER 25 years earlier and was a nuclear engineer trained at the University of Wisconsin. A very sincere man, he expressed strong and unmistakable opposition to nuclear weapons in private conversation. Asked about his associate—and, formally, his subordinate—the head of INER, he said only that he had known him for a long time.
INER does fundamental research. This is where the action would be on nuclear weapons. Its staff had declined from 1,500 to 800.
I learned later, after meeting Ouyang, that INER scientists came to Tsinhua University to do their research and spent their research money there. They were smart and had a big budget. But it would take two years and $10 billion for them to make the bomb.
It seemed that the Chinese missile firing in 1995-1996 helped persuade Lee Teng-hui to reopen the nuclear question. Lee took office as president in 1988, at the time Chang defected, and so protecting INER was one of his first decisions in case a bomb might be needed. In effect, Lee Teng-hui kept INER in business in 1988 on the grounds that the “sun might rise again.” INER was disabled, I was told, because it had nothing to do. It had an annual budget of only $600 million.
There are two ways to do enrichment: chemical or laser isotope. The PUREX or chemical method can be covered by experiments pretending to provide Mo99 for medical uses. In 1984, Taiwan successfully separated 1 gram of plutonium.
One problem, I was told, was that the IAEA inspectors were third-world and “not enough on the front line” to catch what was going on. Concealment was possible with laser isotope methods, and the electric bills were low. People would not find experiments of this kind unless some scientist defected from the group doing it.
A Political Scientist Sees a Danger
A leading political scientist told me that it was hard to see what the United States could do if Taiwan suddenly announced, in a fait accompli, that it had a nuclear weapon. The United States could not “dump” Taiwan. Taiwan would then say, as North Korea did, that it would give up the weapon only if its security were guaranteed. So, perhaps, Taiwan might learn from North Korea.
Also, in Taiwan's overheated politics, it might be hard to oppose a nuclear weapon—and easy to call for it.
Meeting with the Perfect Opponent of Nuclear Weapons: Admiral Ku
Admiral Nelson C.L. Ku, a key member of the Parliament's defense committee, was commander in chief of the Taiwan Navy in 1994 and later strategic adviser to President Lee Teng-hui. Still later he was to the Netherlands. Now 73 years old, he was friendly, alert, and, on careful discussion, completely against nuclear weapons. He liked the idea of proposing legislation that would make it a domestic crime to violate the tripartite IAEA agreement by scientists.
Admiral Ku showed no signs of knowing whether there was, or was not, a small secret nuclear weapons project in Taiwan. But he was clearly against one if there was. He said he would cross-examine the defense minister in upcoming hearings where, as a member of the Parliamentary defense committee, he had an opportunity. And he did just that. Three weeks later, in The New York Times of October 14, Craig S. Smith wrote: “On Tuesday, a prominent Taiwan legislator, Nelson Ku, peppered Prime Minister Yu Shyi-kun with questions about the authorship of the editorial [viz., the Taipei Times editorial calling for a nuclear deterrent], suggesting that it was evidence of a hidden government agenda. Ku asked if there was a group of non-Taiwanese scientists working on nuclear weapons in Taiwan? And he asked: “Is there a five-person team, including active and past members from the current administration, planning the development of nuclear weapons?”
I felt by the day I left, September 21, that I knew enough. Accordingly, after some internal debate, I decided to write President Chen directly and had a letter of that date delivered to his office. Expressing concern that “Taiwan is reassessing its readiness to forgo nuclear weapons under the Tripartite Agreement with the United States and the IAEA,” I appealed to him to direct an end to the reassessment and to “stop immediately any quiet scientific activities inconsistent with that Agreement.” (Appendix)
Returning to the United States with the News
I abandoned plans to travel on to China from Taiwan—which was my normal pattern—because the priority seemed to be to warn the White House that my earlier information and suspicions were fully vindicated. Arriving home at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, September 22, I prepared a full five-page memo and delivered it to the National Security Council at 5.45 p.m. on Thursday. It began by saying this was the report of a “private citizen to the government on a courtesy basis,” but I wanted it treated as highly classified to protect the source—mainly me, since the others were hidden in the memo. Later, I asked that it not be shown to State or Defense but only to CIA since, otherwise, I was sure that my efforts would be reported back to Taiwan within less than 24 hours—as I have little doubt, in any case, they were!
Besides providing the information I had gathered, the memo also noted that Wen Ho Lee, accused of spying and improper contacts with Chinese and Taiwanese nuclear weapons scientists, had received a $5,000 honorarium from the Taiwanese Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology. In fact, The New York Times of January 9, 2000, had reported that Wen Ho Lee had dialed up his computer in Los Alamos from Taiwan and may have deposited files in Taiwan. I had warned the president of the Taiwanese Academy of Sciences, Dr. Yuan T. Lee, of this on January 15 by sending excerpts from a December 27-29, 1999, hearing that showed the downloading of information from Los Alamos computers to Taiwan by Wen Ho Lee. (Note)
Did UN Resolution 1540 Anticipate the Embedding Idea?
I learned from NSC that President Bush, in 2003, had called on the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution urging states to criminalize the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related materials. It was directed, I later learned, against citizens in states like Pakistan who were exporting information and materials. It became UN Security Council Resolution 1540. What I had in mind was something different but similar: criminalizing what might be called “internal” proliferation, in which the states themselves were secretly violating international treaties. But the resolution, adopted on April 28, 2004, did calls upon all states “to adopt national rules and regulations ... to ensure compliance with their commitments under the key multilateral non-proliferation treaties.”
Subsequently, I lobbied the State Department to do more to amend Resolution 1540 to include internal proliferation. At a meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Semmel, I learned that Assistant Secretary John Bolton was against treaties on biological and chemical warfare, which made this impossible for State staffers to pursue.
But a clever staff member at the meeting, Juliet Smith, suggested asking an upcoming NPT Review Conference to ask all NPT parties to embed their NPT obligations in their national laws and regulatory and enforcement measures. This was done, but the conference terminated without success. (Appendix)
The UN resolution invited all states to file what they had done to comply, and from this I found useful information about South Korean and Japanese laws that I later circulated to relevant officials in Taiwan to encourage their activities. An e-mail response of October 21, 2004, from AIT’s Douglas Paal showed that AIT was “following up assiduously” in trying to persuade Taiwan to adopt such laws.
Tuesday, September 28: An Inside Picture from a Former AEC Chief
There was a former head of Taiwan’s AEC in the United States, and I interviewed him. He said the independence of INER from its oversight by AEC depended on the chairman. He himself had run a tight ship. The CANDU reactor that INER bought was overrated. CIA poured concrete into it in 1988 and returned to the United States with the defector Chang. INER then changed direction to reactor safety and to being a backup for the AEC. Radioactive isotopes for medical research and agricultural research were pursued. From 1990 to 1996, he said, there were no smart people in hiding (i.e., nobody doing secret research). Taiwan, he emphasized, had no friendly place to test a bomb, no naval forces to carry one, and no long-range missiles. He thought talk of nuclear weapons was “a lot of smoke and hot air.”
Meanwhile, the Tsinghua University reactor, the Hsin Chu reactor, was ready for decommissioning and would not matter. It was useful only for training people.
The Taiwan government was very inept and short of power generation, so nuclear power was essential. They had little coal, gas, and oil supplies and so would run out in a month or so if nuclear plants were closed. They had been forced to continue building the fourth nuclear power plant because of fines on construction if they did not.
The second generation of scientists was not as smart as the first generation had been. INER had been demoralized, and new hires were not as smart, and their numbers were limited. In the 1960s the smartest people went into nuclear power, but in the 1980s and 1990s nobody went in for nuclear engineering because it was so unpopular. Even the name of the nuclear engineering department had to be changed to get students to go into it. So no smart people were doing it. And he believes that, among the scientists, there were a lot of moles who would report to the United States what was happening.
The bomb was a bluff, he felt. The DPP controlled people’s minds and controlled the press, and so Taiwan was not a real democracy. Advertisers’ associations were forced to form and then forced to put pressure on the newspapers to control them; bank loans were used to exert pressure as well. Chen Shui-bian controlled the uneducated, but the educated were leaving him.
An Expert View from David Albright
On September 29, I lunched with David Albright, the president of Ithe Institute of Strategic and International Studies and a former staff member of mine at the Federation of American Scientists. I asked him to refer this matter to IAEA, where he had contacts and I did not. He knew about the feasibility of experiments with Mo99 and, perhaps, with oxygen. He thought a quick and dirty approach to a bomb would use the plutonium in the spent fuel of the peaceful reactors. He said that, five years earlier, someone gave a paper on nuclear weapons in Taiwan that created suspicion. The man was in a college of nuclear engineering that was connected with CIST. I learned later that IAEA felt there was a change of attitude and that weaponization studies were going on. The site I described was under protocol.
September 29: The White House Is Moving
On September 29, the Chris Nelson Report quoted the Taiwan premier as having made remarks about the island needing a “balance of terror” capability. I thereupon wrote the White House an e-mail message warning of a “verbal escalation ladder toward eventual Taiwanese breakout and, also, the underlying indoctrination of the Taiwanese population with the idea that a deterrent is necessary and feasible.”
I got the quiet answer, one hour later: “Yes. We’re on it. Thank you.”
I urged that Douglas Paal in Taiwan be authorized to try to embed the Tripartite Agreement in Taiwanese domestic law. And I wrote Paal directly about this and noted that South Africa had done something similar. (Appendix) A later exchange with Paal suggested that this had been done.
On October 1, I visited the Intelligence and Research Division of the State Department and talked to John Merrill. On October 12, late, I received an e-mail message drawing my attention to the next day’s Taipei Times, in which Admiral Nelson Ku had raised all my questions and points in a parliamentary hearing while questioning the Taiwanese prime minister. I sent this around; it represented the beginning of this issue in the media food chain.
On October 14, the Taiwan questioning of Premier Yu by Admiral Ku had appeared in The New York Times along with a report that IAEA was investigating Taiwan for activities in the 1980s.
On October 20, I visited the National Security Council for 15 minutes on my impending trip to China. It seemed that Defense had put one over on the NSC by using the word deterrent in a Defense report that encouraged the Taiwanese in their interest in such a deterrent. It was obvious that the CIA was looking into my allegations about a Taiwanese nuclear exploratory committee but needed time. It didn’t have much in the way of assets in Taiwan.
NSC was worried about what might happen if “with all [your] authority” this issue were to be raised with China. They obviously planned to handle things quietly. They were doing something on Taiwan, but I was not told what.
I resubmitted an earlier memo of March 3 about multilateralizing the conflict with an introduction saying: “I continue to feel that this idea will appeal to President Bush because it follows his approach to the North Korea situation. But it seems all the more important now because in its absence, I fear that Taipei will use the nuclear option to succeed, in one way or another, in manipulating Washington in ways no one really wants.” (Later, I received word that the idea had been moved along to Steve Hadley, the deputy national security adviser.)
State Department Throws Cold Water on Taiwanese Independence: FBIS Puts Out a Relevant Study
On November 1, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service—undoubtedly at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency in response to the interest of the National Security Council—produced its review of the Taiwanese literature. (Appendix) Some channels of information even reported that the NSC “five-person team” included one member who was a foreigner. IAEA had been there expressing concern and warning that it would be performing unannounced inspections. A Tsinghua University nuclear science professor, Chung Chien, was quoted as saying: “Given the heavy US involvement in the past, it would be impossible for Taiwan to restart the (nuclear) program without US approval, especially considering Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation. Even though most of the research and development facilities still exist, the experienced experts have retired and it would cost billions of yuan to restart.”
TRIP #34 (November 6–12, 2004) Following up on the Nuclear Issue in China
I arrived Saturday night on November 6 only to find that a young official of the China Reform Forum was going to the United States the next day and, in his excitement, had not organized my schedule. It turned out, however, that someone I had invited to my home to watch the presidential election results had given me a cold. So I spent Sunday and Monday in bed anyway and scaled back appointments. However, an old friend had organized a meeting for dinner on Tuesday with two officials, married, one on the Central Committee and one in the Foreign Ministry. I decided to orient everything to that meeting. The only other serious meeting was with the deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office, also set for Tuesday.
On November 9, the Internet showed that People’s Daily was accusing Taiwan of trying to get nuclear weapons through a “preventive medical research institute” and the “nuclear energy research institute.” The former was news to me.
I met at 11 a.m. with Ye Ru’an, who was the vice president of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, an umbrella organization of many arms control groups. I pitched the “criminalize internal proliferation” approach. He was slow to get it but agreed to talk to the arms control group of the People’s Liberation Army.
At 2:30 p.m. I met with Sun Yafu, deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office and its former head of research. He was really about number-five at the office, did not speak English, and was sweet. I gave him a copy of the FBIS report on nuclear issues in Taiwan and asked for information in return. He said, sincerely, that they really had none: “We just follow public sources.” When I asked what the “Preventative Medicine Research Institute” was, he did not know. But we pay “great attention” to this nuclear issue.
At 6:30 p.m. I met with two key officials and gave them a memo of suggestions for the Central Committee:
1). At the APEC Summit, President Hu Jintao should raise the question of Taiwanese nuclear weapons with President George Bush and should say:
A). China will share intelligence with the United States on Taiwanese nuclear activities on the assumption that the United States will act to stamp such activities out and
B). The nuclear debate now underway in Taiwan underlines the importance of a Sino-U.S. Summit either on Taiwan itself or, if this is not convenient, on broader issues that would, nevertheless, permit a full discussion of the Taiwan problem between the two presidents;
2). The Foreign Ministry should propose an amendment of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 that “criminalizes proliferation” to include not just “external proliferation” but “internal proliferation.” This would mean that:
A). All states would be urged to pass domestic legislation that would make scientists and administrators who engaged in activities violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty and/or IAEA safeguards liable for fines and jail terms.
3). Finally, in whatever way it can, Chinese foreign policy should encourage Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to pass such legislation. In particular, it should cooperate with efforts we plan to have such legislation introduced in the parliaments of these three entities. All of these entities have strongly anti-nuclear populations and, in principle, should be ready to pass such legislation if suitably encouraged.
One official complained that Taiwan was not a state, and I fixed this by changing some wording. He said China should wait for the United States to make a first draft—the usual hesitation in China. But I pointed out that China was looking for ways to cooperate with the United States, and this was one.
They were very impressed with my book.
Meeting at the Party School
On Friday morning I visited the Party School, at which high officials of the Communist Party are trained.
At the Party School at 9 a.m., I met with two professors. Later they were joined by Professor Kang Shaobang, standing deputy director of the Institute for International Strategic Studies of the Central Party School of the Communist Party of China.
I explained my position, especially that this struggle with Taiwan was a “religious war” over nothing and was not worth much activity. It seemed that a number of faculty people felt this way.
November 11: Taiwan Throws in the Sponge—Sort Of, Maybe
At the airport, on my way home on November 11, I saw the first signs of a statement on nuclear weapons from Chen Shui-bian, which had obviously been made under the pressure from the White House which I had stirred up. I was quite excited until I saw the text: “We are willing to openly pledge that we will never develop these kinds of weapons and would like to urge China to openly renounce developing and using them.”
It looked, on close reading, as if Chen Shui-bian was saying the nuclear option would be foregone if the Chinese would give up their nuclear option. In any case, it looked like the issue had openly surfaced, and my proposals to Hu Jintao for the summit were quite timely.
On Saturday November 13, I saw an e-mail report that, in background briefings, National Security Adviser Chiou I-jen had interpreted Chen Shui-bian’s statement as “unilateral and irreversible”—responding, perhaps, to statements of people like me who had read the statement closely. (Note)
On November 14, I sent an e-mail message to one of the two U.S. officials with whom I had met, with my interpretation of Chen Shui-bian’s statement and Chiou I-jen’s statement and suggested they take all this up with President Bush.
Vice President Lu May Have Watered Down the Statement
Back at home, a well-placed source on Taiwan said that George Bush was increasingly aware that Taiwan was a problem. She said it was Annette Lu who insisted on the peculiar statement of Chen Shui-bian that made the nonnuclear commitment a bargaining one. She thought the Chen Shui-bian statement was worthless.
Trip 37: In Taiwan, the Chen Shui-bian Administration is Cool
I returned to Taiwan in May 2005 to see whether the earlier visit of September 14, 2004, had been successful in checking exploratory nuclear weapons activities in Taiwan. I also wanted to see what effect the astonishing recent visits to China of the Taiwanese political leaders Lien Chan and James Soong were having. In earlier years such visits—I was told—were politically too hazardous for the leaders of the former ruling party. Now, as one Taiwanese analyst advised me, these visits represented “an end to McCarthyism,” that is, an end to domestic fears of being called a “communist sympathizer” for talking to the leaders of China. The visits seemed very successful and were applauded in Taiwan by a sizable majority. The ruling party (DPP) had not known quite how to handle the visits from a political point of view. Chen Shui-bian had first seemed to approve them and then, later, denounced them.
The visit began badly when a United Airlines flight malfunctioned at Dulles Airport, leading to a missed connection and a day spent spinning my wheels in San Francisco. It soon became evident, however, that the ruling DPP administration was quietly snubbing me in retaliation for my work on the nuclear issue.
Our other meetings with party officials of KMT and PFP, and with private citizens, went well. I was briefed on the China visits. We dined with a key representative of the KMT team, Su Chi, who had gone to China on the historic visit of Party Chairman Lien Chan and had a full understanding of what had transpired. We made our own suggestions as to what might be done next. He also agreed that our Northeast Strategy, invented in 1996, was a “great” idea—so maybe the KMT would talk it up.
We also lunched and with made friends with a key representative of the PFP team that went to China with Party Chairman James Soong (after Lien Chan’s visit).
In reading 75 days of newspaper back issues, we learned that Taiwan was still interested in offensive weapons—which meant it still had a latent interest in working on nuclear warheads. We learned that the Chinese military buildup was such that Taiwan was straining to be able to defend itself for five to seven days—rather than weeks—to give the United States time to arrive. We learned that the much decried recent Chinese anti-secession law was, really, of great benefit to Taiwan because it implicitly guaranteed Taiwan protection from any attack unless it declared independence.
And we had a new idea—a way of efficiently negotiating economic integration between the two sides. I presented it to a former Taiwanese Premier, Vincent Siew, mentioned earlier and now Vice President of Taiwan, whose life goal is to secure such integration and who ran an economic foundation for such work. The idea was an offshoot of the Northeast Strategy for unification described in “Every Man Should Try” (Chapter 28, page 317). In the new idea, instead of steps toward reunification on the y-axis of the graph, there would be steps toward economic integration balanced against steps toward “more political space.”
Such a bargaining approach would, in effect, provide additional incentives to Taiwan to engage in steps toward economic integration over and above the advantages of the steps themselves because it would provide more space. The idea was well received.
In sum, this was a successful visit despite the perhaps inevitable antagonism of the formerly friendly DPP administration. Nuclear weapons activities in Taiwan were a key issue because they could lead to a U.S. war with China. Indeed, nuclear weapons in Taiwan were one of four reasons China had listed for attacking Taiwan. And the weapons represented a way in which Taiwanese hawks could deliberately provoke the Sino-U.S. crisis that they felt they needed to get recognition from America. Under such circumstances, I considered it entirely worth it to blow the whistle on these exploratory discussions at the cost of losing entree to the Chen Shui-bian administration.
Trip 38, July-August 2005: Some Last Proposals for China
I arrived in China on Tuesday night after almost missing the connecting plane at O’Hare due to a storm.
China Daily was announcing that the Six-Party Talks on North Korea had just opened and that the United States was accepting North Korean sovereignty and had no plans to attack the country. The Herald Tribune said, “U.S. takes softer line in North Korea talks.”
I met for more than an hour, at 9:30 a.m., with Deputy Director Wang Zaixsi of the Taiwan Affairs Office. General Wang greeted me warmly, remembered our last meeting a year ago, and said I was a great expert. I began running down a list of seven suggestions I had prepared for him. (Appendix) Four involved their inviting specific Taiwanese officials for various purposes (Dr. Lee Yuan Tseh; Vincent Siew; Fredrick Chien; and Admiral Nelson Ku), two involved cultural programs (inviting young leaders and parliamentarians), and the last involved a new look at the Northeast Strategy—which I had newly translated.
Arguing that China’s “peace offensive” was going well after the visits to China of Lien Chan and James Soong, I urged pressing forward with more invitations to key Taiwanese officials and personages. First on the list was Lee Yuan Tseh. I noted that the Law on Secession called for scientific exchanges without qualification. I urged that his counterpart invite Yuan and that they discuss an increase in scientific exchange.
He said Lee Yuan Tseh was “very outstanding” as a “scientist” but in the 2000 election had supported Chen Shui-bian, who was a “politician” trying for independence. So, he said, we hoped we could have a very clear statement of position from Lee Yuan Tseh on Taiwanese independence. If he had a position, they could invite him. But it seemed he was unwilling to do this.
Wang said he had not met Lee. He went on to say that we all still expected him to state his position on independence on public occasions. If he did, then it would be easy for him to come to the Mainland. But, anyway, he told me, it was a good suggestion to strengthen the exchanges across the strait, and we would pay more attention to this. Our minister and vice minister of science had visited Taiwan to strengthen cooperation because the research in both places was complementary.
I said: “So you invite all parliamentarians, even those in the DPP who don’t support reunification, but you don’t invite Lee Yuan Tseh, who is much more supportive of reunification.”
General Wang said: “But he is not a common scientist. And we think the title of his academy is a “little of an official nature to some extent” (i.e., an implicit claim to independence).
I said: “Lee Yuan Tseh is extremely popular in Taiwan—like a movie star—and if he were treated rudely then the Taiwanese would consider China had been rude to them!”
Wang: “The head of Chi Mei enterprises made a public statement on independence. Why could not Lee Yuan Tseh?”
Stone: “It is unrealistic to expect Lee Yuan Tseh to say anything clear about independence because he works for Chen Shui-bian. And Lee Yuan Tseh had a right to support any candidate he wants in Taiwan. And, in fact, he had not supported Chen Shui-bian in 2000 for independence reasons but, instead, because of corruption in KMT.”
Wang actually said, later, that I had been right on “all” my points and they may think, if temporarily, about whether to continue to impose this “loyalty oath” approach to Lee Yuan Tseh.
I went on to argue for inviting Vincent Siew (to discuss economic integration) and former Foreign Minister Fredrick Chien (to discuss the political past and its implications for the future). He said these people were good candidates for coming and they would think about this.
At the end, I stood up and gave him an 1854 map of Taiwan, which, thankfully, seemed to have listed the island as part of Fukien Province. While we waited for another person to join us, he asked me to sit down and began saying that he had just realized that I was a “kind” person and he went on to say very friendly things about me. He wanted me to come back and, when I did, to talk to him. And he mentioned that he might be coming to America. I offered, if he did, to host him for a dinner or something.
Afterward, I spoke to his translator, Zhu Fenglian, and gave her a copy of the translation of my Zhou En-lai chapter to give Wang. I gave her a copy of my book and information backing up those parts of my letter to Wang that I had not had time to discuss with him—especially the idea I had earlier given Vincent Siew on the Northeast Strategy on economic integration. So things look surprisingly good in the Taiwan Affairs Office.
China Still Thinking About Talking to Chen Shui-bian
After lunch with Ding Kuisong and Zhang Jia, I was asked about the opening of talks with Chen Shui-bian. To my amazement, it seemed that China was still thinking about doing this. I realized that I was no longer in favor of opening talks with Chen Shui-bian now, even though I had been working toward this, and giving ideas on how to get them started, snce 1999.
It seemed to me now—and I told Ding—that talks for their own sake without any basis for agreement on both sides spelled trouble. It was like talking about marriage when one side had no clear desire to do so. Better, I argued, to work toward providing a political basis for the desire, in Taiwan, to get married.
Exchanges and more of the peace offensive would be good. Privately, I thought that talking to Chen Shui-bian would leave China faked out of its jock and then, with expectations high, China might get mad.
If, in fact, as was now the case, China wanted only stabilization and not reunification, it had got it with the passage of its secession law. This, I now felt, was enough for now. I told them that Mayor Ma might win in the next election. Of course, talks with KMT would be quite a different matter. They posed fewer dangers.
Ding said my efforts, at “relatively high levels,” to work for better China-Taiwan relations were remembered and that I was very welcome to come again as the guest of China Reform Forum.
Concerns in the Chinese Bureaucracy
From questions put to me, in varying ways, Chinese foreign policy officials were worried about these things:
(1) Was the term “Peaceful Rise” of China one that will alarm the West or pacify them? I considered this term innocuous since “rise” is obvious and “peaceful” is better than the alternative. (Internally, however, they continued to worry that this phrase might be taken by some to mean they would not fight for Taiwan.)
(2) They were unsure whether to ask the American government to assert, in some fashion, that it is for peaceful “reunification”—not just One China and a peaceful “resolution.” And they were unsure because they were not sure whether the Taiwan lobby could stop such an assertion. (I thought they might get a president to say this but not a congressional resolution.)
(3) They were trying to figure out how hard to press for a state visit for Hu Jintao when he came in September and/or how hard to press for a visit to Bush’s Texas ranch—or could they ask for both. I told them what I thought they might usefully say—in particular, listing all the things that the United States was trying to get them to do and emphasizing the amount of face time this would require with the president.
(4) They were drafting Hu Jintao’s speech for the September visit and trying to figure out what to say. I made a number of suggestions.
(5) They were debating what “Peaceful Rise” should really mean and, in particular, how much China should depart from its “no interference in internal affairs” to a policy of playing a leadership role in the world.
(6) They were pleased with the success of China’s high-profile role in hosting the Six-Party Talks—something which I, and a partner in China Reform Forum, encouraged at an earlier stage. And this would, I thought, encourage them to move further out into world affairs.
(7) On Taiwan, the new Chinese leadership was quite complacent now that it had handled this right—putting off calls for reunification and emphasizing stability. Its time limit on reunification had been put off to the end of “this century” and the anti-secession law appeared to have worked out well.
In my last afternoon, I succumbed to buying a large turtle with a dragon’s head. It required careful packaging at the store, two men carrying the object to my hotel, and, later, further strengthening of the packaging at the hotel. The workers, a half-dozen involved, were all so polite, so intelligent, and so hard-working; it made one fear for the future of America. And these workers refused any tips and told each other, “He has a kind heart.” There was something in the hard-working culture and in the intelligence and determination of China that would surpass—is surpassing now—the rest of the world. It was exciting to be part of the growth and evolution of China.