By Patrick Tyler
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Additional resources for A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China
With accurate ballistic missiles, China could knock out the eight military airfields on Taiwan, cratering the runways and preventing the island's air force from mustering opposition to a suffocating naval blockade. A blockade of Taiwan would threaten the interests of the United States and Japan. Clinton would be at pains not to challenge the closure of the sealanes around Taiwan, just as the United States was compelled to challenge Iran's attempt in 1988 to choke off the international sea-lanes in the Persian Gulf during the so-called Tanker War between Iran and Iraq.
A confrontation between the United States and the People's Republic of China had the potential to undermine the Clinton presidency. S. Pacific Fleet was in transition. Admiral Richard Macke had resigned over inappropriate remarks he had made relating to the September 1995 rape of a twelve-year-oldjapanese schoolgirl by American sailors in Okinawa. Admiral Joseph W. Prueher, who had been named as his replacement, was in Washington for his confirmation hearing before the Senate. General Shalikashvili called Prueher and told him that it was not too early to take some preliminary steps to mobilize for the defense of Taiwan if war broke out, but to take care not to telegraph any such moves to the Taiwanese leadership, lest diey grow bolder.
Chinese soldiers and technicians of the Second Artillery Coqw, which operates the country's nuclear and conventional rocket forces, cheered the missiles into the night sky. One missile passed over the northern tip of Taiwan during its descent. On the odier side of the world, White House spokesman Mike McCurry was preparing his noon briefing. Word of the launches was flashed from the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon to the Situation Room in the basement of the White House, then to McCurry, "These missile exercises-—and indeed we have some reason to believe they have occurred—we consider both provocative and reckless," McCurry said from the podium of the West Wing press room just after noon.
A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China by Patrick Tyler