HONG KONG -- Little more than a month after U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to Beijing seemed to have laid the groundwork for a more stable and cooperative relationship between the United States and China, ties between the two countries are again in danger of unraveling as Washington openly moves to build a closer defense relationship with Taiwan.

China was taken aback when Washington allowed Taiwanese Defense Minister Tang Yiau-ming to pay a "private" visit to the U.S. to attend a defense conference in Florida at which he met with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly. This was the first time the U.S. had given a visa to a Taiwan defense minister since Washington broke diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979 to establish relations with Beijing.

Worse, at about the same time, news leaked of the Nuclear Policy Review by the Pentagon that envisaged use of nuclear weapons against China in the event of war in the Taiwan Strait. The angry Chinese called in U.S. Ambassador Clark Randt to lodge a protest.