U.S. closely watching war games across

Chris Cockel,The China Post, Washington D.C.

U.S. intelligence officials have expressed concern that should war erupt between India and Pakistan, mainland China may seize the opportunity to launch an attack against Taiwan, according to a report in Friday�s Washington Times. According to the report, the U.S. is worried that military maneuvers underway in Fujian province, involving up to 100,000 troops, could be used as a springboard for such an attack. Forces from the 12th Group Army of the People’s Liberation Army, including tanks, armored vehicles, and amphibious ships have been observed gathering along the Fujian coast for “war games”?scheduled to continue for the next six months.

Military vehicles have also been seen traveling from the capital of Fujian province, Fuzhou, to the port city of Xiamen, opposite Taiwan�s Kinmen Island. The Times?report notes that unlike in previous years, however, no mention of the maneuvers has been made in mainland state-controlled media, with the only report appearing in Hong Kong�s Wen Wei Po. Such military maneuvers are relatively common on the mainland, and have in the past been interpreted as deliberately coinciding with elections in Taiwan as a means of intimidating voters and dissuading them from electing pro-independence candidates. Not surprisingly, neither the Central Intelligence Agency nor the U.S. Department of Defense was prepared to comment on the concerns of certain individuals within the intelligence community. While an official with the Department of State merely repeated a continuing U.S. policy of carefully monitoring the situation across the Taiwan Strait, he expressed the opinion that Beijing, as with the rest of the international community, has no interest in seeing a war breakout in South Asia. With numerous internal challenges to contend with, such as the hand-over to the next generation of leaders, unprecedented industrial restructuring plus preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games, many commentators note that Beijing has more important issues to worry about than Taiwan. Even in the mainland, concerns have been expressed that the preoccupation with the issue of Taiwan is unjustified and merely serves to adversely affect Beijing�s relations internationally, according to June Teufel Dreyer, professor of political science at the University of Miami and a member of the Congress-appointed U.S.-China Commission. Dreyer on Friday rejected the notion that Beijing might take advantage of a conflict in South Asia to launch an attack against Taiwan. Although relations between Washington and Taipei are said to be the closest for over two decades, Dreyer notes an overall tipping of the balance in Washington in Beijing�s favor.

�Why should China take the risk of upsetting the balance now??she said.

Additionally, Dreyer noted, with the mainland being a long-time ally to Pakistan, there is a concern in Beijing about what are perceived as closer U.S.-India ties. In short, said Dreyer, �The last thing the Chinese need is an overt confrontation with the U.S. over Taiwan.? Meanwhile, en route to Singapore for an Asian security conference, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz issued a warning to Beijing. ?Mainland China) can either be a peaceful and constructive member of the Pacific community … or it could make the mistake of thinking that because they�re big and powerful, they can impose their will on other people. I think they�ll find that everyone will oppose them if they do that,?he said.