Carter says China acquiesced to Taiwan arms sales

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Dec 05, 2007

BEIJING (AFP) — Former US president Jimmy Carter said Wednesday that when ties with China were re-established 29 years ago, Beijing privately acknowledged that the United States would keep selling arms to Taiwan.

At a ceremony marking the 29th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic ties, Carter read excerpts from his diary concerning negotiations with the late Deng Xiaoping.

"(Deng) agreed that our statement to settle the Taiwan issue peacefully would not be contradicted publicly by China and he understood that we would sell defensive weapons to Taiwan after (a US-Taiwan defence) treaty expired," Carter said.

"Publicly they are going to disapprove of this action, but privately they have acknowledged that it will be done," he said, reading the December 14, 1978 diary entry.

China regularly rails against US arms sales to Taiwan, an issue that resurfaced last month after China refused to allow a US aircraft carrier battle group to make a port call in Hong Kong.

China later hinted the refusal was at least partly in retaliation for recent US weapons sales to Taiwan.

The United States announced on December 15, 1978, that it would sever ties with Taiwan. It re-established relations with China on January 1, 1979.

Since then, economic and trade ties have blossomed but the political relationship remains stymied in part by the Taiwan issue.

China insists on reserving the right to retake the island, by force if necessary.

Carter, who served as president from 1976-1980, said Deng announced his "reform and opening" policies -- which ushered in three decades of booming economic growth -- only three days after the US announced plans to normalise ties.

"At a stroke of a pen by Deng Xiaoping and me, China entered a new era and never stopped moving forward in improving the living conditions of the Chinese people and contributing to the global economy," Carter said.

"Without normalising relations with the United States it would be very difficult for China to concentrate on economic development ... as China needed a peaceful international environment and a reduced threat from the Soviet Union."

US-backed Nationalist Chinese armies fled to Taiwan following the 1949 civil war defeat to communist forces.

Before 1979, the United States viewed the Taiwan government as rightful ruler of all China.