Army hawks mimic anti-Nato sentiment

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 May, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 May, 1999, 12:00am

Hardliners within the leadership have continued to urge a tough reaction against America and its allies in the wake of the Nato strike on the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.

A Beijing source has confirmed the Navy sent at least 10 vessels to the vicinity of the disputed Diaoyu Islands last week in a show of force against the 'hegemonists'.

The source said Beijing feared Washington might use US-Japan security guidelines to intervene in the affairs of Taiwan, considered by some Chinese politicians as a 'potential Kosovo'.

Other PLA hawks have proposed test-firing advanced-model missiles, military exercises along the coast, and even a revival of nuclear tests in the remote Xinjiang region. The Politburo has yet to endorse the suggestions.

However, the authorities decided to launch commercial satellites three days after the embassy bombing to demonstrate the PLA's grasp of rocket technology.

A Western diplomat said: 'Army hawks have taken heart from the show of patriotism following the embassy incident. They are confident that, given the imperative of preventing Taiwan independence, the PLA will have stronger public support for a more aggressive modernisation programme.' Analysts said there were signs the conservative turn in Chinese politics might affect economic relations with the West. This was despite a rough Politburo consensus to push ahead and seek US help in getting China into the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

However, conservatives including National People's Congress (NPC) chairman Li Peng are trying to minimise concessions to the US. A parliamentary source said the Politburo had, in theory, granted Mr Li's request that WTO-related issues must have the approval of the NPC Standing Committee.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac urged China yesterday to work for quick progress in its negotiations to join the WTO.