Members of Congress are talking about a cutoff of arms sales to Taiwan in retaliation for the island nation's alleged involvement in the California murder of a Chinese-American author.
Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) has asked that a House subcommittee hold hearings under a 1981 law -- passed in response to the death of another Chinese-American critic of Taiwan -- empowering the president to suspend arms deals with any nation harassing U.S. residents.
A spokesman for the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asian and Pacific affairs said he expected some action when Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.), subcommittee chairman and author of the 1981 law, returns from a trip to Central America.
Rep. Norman Y. Mineta (D-Calif.) has written Attorney General William French Smith to criticize an "apparent lack of interest" in finding the killers of author-businessman Henry Liu.
In the meantime Taiwanese officials, although still resisting requests to extradite suspects to the United States, have agreed to allow FBI and police investigators to question two suspects held in Taiwan. In Daly City, Calif., police detective Donald McCarthy said the city's chief detective, Lt. Tom Reese, and at least one FBI agent probably would fly to Taiwan within a week.
A spokesman for Taiwan in Bethesda, Md., said today his government is "actively engaged in bringing the case to light."
Critics of the Taiwanese government and its ruling Nationalist party have suggested that concern about the Solarz amendment might have stimulated Taiwan's announcement Tuesday that it has arrested several of its military intelligence officers in connection with Liu's death Oct. 15.
Liu, 52, was a former resident of Taiwan whose books and articles became openly critical of the Nationalist party after he moved to the United States. Police said he was shot in front of his Daly City home by two Asian men riding bicycles.
The interest of American intelligence experts in the case, and in Taiwan's extraordinary admission of official involvement, arises in large part from the role of Adm. Wang Hsi-ling.
Wang, formerly Taiwan's top military representative in Washington, was privately blamed by U.S. officials for obtaining and leaking in 1979 a secret U.S. military contingency plan. Publicity about an arrangement for abandoning Asia in case of a Soviet attack in Europe was considered embarrassing at a time when the United States was attempting to solidify relations with Taiwan's adversary, the Chinese government in Peking.
"Wang has been a real problem," a former U.S. diplomat said.
Taiwan announced Tuesday that Wang had been relieved of command of the Defense Ministry's military intelligence bureau in the wake of statements by a gang member, Chen Chi-li, accused of leading the team that murdered Liu.