WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is not prepared to respond quickly if there is conflict between China and Taiwan and lacks a broad strategy for dealing with China's rise, a congressionally mandated commission said on Wednesday.
The commission reaffirmed its skeptical view of Beijing, concluding that over the past year "the trends in the U.S.-China relationship have negative implications for our long-term national economic and security interests."
In its annual report, it urged Congress to impose an "immediate across-the-board tariff" on Chinese imports to force Beijing to strengthen significantly the value of its currency.
The U.S.-China Commission was established by Congress in 2000 to examine the national security consequences of America's economic ties with China.
Its views are controversial and generally more hard-line than the official U.S. position, which recently has focused on how Beijing can work with Washington as a responsible member of the international system.
The report, based on 14 hearings involving 150 witnesses and other research, said the combination of a U.S. policy of "strategic ambiguity" and Taiwan's hesitation in responding to China's aggressive military buildup "sends a signal of ambivalence and weakness" to Beijing.
"The U.S. government has not laid adequate groundwork to allow a rapid response to a provocation in the Taiwan Strait," it said. "Almost any possible scenario involving U.S. military support to Taiwan would require extensive political and military coordination with the Taiwan government and regional allies but the foundations for such coordination have not been laid."
There is an urgent need for Congress to encourage increasing U.S. military capabilities in the western Pacific in response to China's growing capabilities, it added.
U.S. experts have long worried about potential conflict between China and Taiwan. Beijing insists the self-governing island is part of China and will be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.
The United States has formal diplomatic relations with China but has pledged to help defend Taiwan, including by selling the island nation defensive arms.
The commission said its "greatest concern is that the United States has not developed a fundamental assessment of how American national interests are affected by our relationship with China."
By contrast, "China's leadership has a coordinated national strategy for dealing with the United States (and) is willing to achieve its goals through means that threaten many U.S. interests," it said
"The United States must be prepared to respond more aggressively to China's behavior and actions when they run counter to our interests," the commission stressed.
The panel expressed particular concern that Washington's failure to correct a worsening trade imbalance "conveys to the Chinese that the United States is either unable or unwilling to use its economic power to encourage proper adjustments."
But it argued that China is heavily dependent on selling its products in the American marketplace and this provides the United States with "enormous leverage to demand that China adopt greater reforms and abandon its mercantilist practices."
The commission described China's proliferation record as poor. U.S. sanctions on Chinese companies accused of selling technology to problem states have been ineffective because the penalties affect subsidiaries, not parent companies, it said.