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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Straitstimes > Taiwan's Chen, defying China, to visit US cities

TAIPEI - Taiwan's leader plans to visit Hawaii and Seattle in two weeks, officials said Wednesday, in a trip that would defy rival China's intense campaign to block Taiwanese leaders from visiting major nations.
The United States has ignored China's protests and has allowed Mr Chen visit. -- AP
President Chen Shui-bian will make his US stops while travelling to Panama and Belize, which are among the few nations that have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the Presidential Office said.
China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, and Beijing is eager for unification. China's communist rulers consider democratic Taiwan to be a province of China that's ruled by an illegal government.
Beijing tries to isolate Taiwan by pressuring other countries to sever formal ties with the island and deny visas to Taiwanese leaders.
The campaign has largely been successful in Europe and Asia. But the United States - which doesn't have official relations with Taiwan - has ignored China's protests and has allowed Mr Chen to visit several times during the past four years.
He will stop in Hawaii on Aug 30 on the way to Panama to attend President-elect Martin Torrijos's inauguration on Sept 1, the Presidential Office said. He will visit Belize on Sept 2 before returning to Taiwan after a Sept 3 stopover in Seattle, the office said.
This is the first time he has visited Hawaii and Seattle as president. Past trips to Taiwanese diplomatic allies have included stopovers in New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Anchorage.
The Taiwanese insist that the US stopovers are necessary for refueling and plane maintenance. But China says they are just ploys to advance Mr Chen's campaign to permanently split China and Taiwan. -- AP

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