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.

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.

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.

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.

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."