The Reagan administration will notify Congress formally today of its intention to supply 60 F5 jet fighter planes to Taiwan now that the United States has reached an accommodation with the People's Republic of China, White House officials said yesterday.
The largest U.S. sale to Taiwan in several years, valued at $240 million, involves a coproduction arrangement between the island bastion and the Northrop Corp.
President Reagan approved the deal in principle in January but postponed further action, including the required notification to Congress, during negotiations with Peking on the touchy Taiwan arms issue.
Announcement that the Taiwan warplane sale is on its way to Capitol Hill evidently was intended to mollify conservatives and other members of Congress who have been critical of Tuesday's joint Sino-American communique. In that document, the United States promised to "reduce gradually its sales of arms to Taiwan, leading over a period of time to a final resolution."
In another gesture in the same direction, White House deputy press secretary Larry Speakes said "a very detailed account of the U.S. government's understanding" during the negotiations with China would be placed in the official files "so that future administrations can refer to exactly what our thoughts were at this time."
This set of official papers, according to Speakes, was mentioned to 14 conservative members of Congress who visited Reagan late Tuesday to express concern about the joint communique. Some of the lawmakers later told reporters that "other documents" not made public shed additional light on the Sino-American arrangement.
Speakes said the documents expressing Reagan's thoughts and intentions in the deal with Peking would not be made public. Later, he said the documents had not been drafted yet.
White House and State Department officials have said that no secret protocols or other undisclosed arrangements were concluded with China in negotiations leading to the communique.
Comments by officials here and in Peking after issuance of the communique made it quickly evident that the two sides interpret the document in different ways.
China has emphasized the limitations imposed by the United States on its arms sales to Taiwan and treated the agreement as a major step toward full and final termination of its arms supply.
The United States, on the other hand, has emphasized its continuing right and intention to supply arms that in its judgment are needed for Taiwan's defense.
Reagan, in a telephone call Tuesday evening to Dan Rather, anchorman of the CBS Evening News, was quoted as saying, "There has been no retreat by me, no change whatsoever. We will continue to arm Taiwan. I am bound by and will obey the Taiwan [Relations] Act . . . . We have a moral obligation to Taiwan."
Assistant Secretary of State John H. Holdridge, the principal public spokesman for the administration on the communique, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday that the administration would reconsider its refusal to sell advanced F16 jets to Taipei if China goes back on its "fundamental policy" of dealing peacefully with Taiwan.
"We will continue to monitor the situation," Holdridge said. "And this means we will look at the military capabilities and dispositions. We also look at statements of political intent."
Committee Chairman Clement J. Zablocki (D-Wis.) joined the congressional critics of the agreement in a statement preceding Holdridge's testimony. Zablocki said the document "raises serious questions and concerns" and "seems to have violated the spirit if not the letter of the Taiwan Relations Act."
Speakes, however, repeatedly described the Taiwan Relations Act yesterday as "the law of the land," and a senior White House official said that in case of any conflict between the law and the joint communique, the law "clearly" could take preference.
Zablocki, like Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the day before, brought up a statement attributed to Reagan during his presidential candidacy in 1980 that he "would not impose restrictions [against Taiwan] which are not required by the Taiwan Relations Act." Holdridge did not comment on the statement.
The same campaign statement of Aug. 25, 1980, was distributed to journalists yesterday by the Hannaford Co., Inc., formerly Deaver and Hannaford, which was Reagan's public relations counsel for several years and, then as now, also represented the Taiwan government.