US-China ties good - as long as Taiwan arms sales remain shelved

Sino-American relations seem in good repair except for the question of arms sales to Taiwan. But Washington's plan to sell a new generation of advanced aircraft to Taiwan has been shelved, and Peking seems willing to live with the present situation: US military sales to Taiwan are now confined largely to replacement equipment and parts.

After the flurry on both sides of the Pacific over reports out of Washington that President Reagan was considering the sale of F-5 or F-16 fighter planes to Taiwan, there now seems to be an inclination both here and in the American capital to ''cool it,'' as one Western diplomat said.

But, one Chinese source says,''our position has not changed,'' - meaning that Peking still emphatically opposes American arms sales to Taiwan.

So long as the President himself does not settle the issue one way or another , the Chinese will remain uneasy about it.

China will also keep an eye on the US-Soviet talks on medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe, starting in Geneva Nov. 30.

China and the United States currently share the feeling that Soviet expansionism needs to be contained. But although China does not oppose US talks with the Soviet Union, like the Europeans, the Chinese feel somewhat uneasy here whenever it looks as though Washington and Moscow might be preparing to settle their differences through bilateral negotiations.

With a new set of Soviet-American talks, Washington will have to remain alert to Chinese sensitivities and not to spring surprises.

Meanwhile, Sino-American trade booms. Treasury Secretary Donald Regan has just concluded high-level talks here which, he said, went ''very well.''

He brought Vice-Chairman Deng Xiaoping and Premier Zhao Ziyang the message direct from President Reagan that ''a strong cooperative relationship between our two countries is a central element of the Reagan administration's foreign policy.''

US-China trade has increased from $1.2 billion in 1978 to perhaps $6 billion annually by the end of this year.

Assistant Commerce Secretary Eugene K. Lawson told reporters here Nov. 18 that trade could reach $10 billion per year by 1984, adding, ''That is not a naive assumption.''

China imports large quantities of American cotton and grain, and this year it is making a determined effort to increase its own exports to the United States. These exports reached $1.4 billion during the first half of the year - double the $700 million achieved during the first nine months of the previous year.

Also, China has been getting more favorable treatment in the transfer of technology than the Soviet Union, according to Mr. Lawson.

The export of a highly sophisticated computer the Chinese want has been held up, but an export license is expected to be granted eventually.

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