- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2008

POSTAGE DIPLOMACY

For 30 years, the United States has had a special relationship with Taiwan, an island sometimes called the “land of creative ambiguity” because of tense political relations with China.

The U.S. government recognizes the communist regime in Beijing as the only government of China, but it still maintains an office in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei. Meanwhile, Taiwan acts like a sovereign nation but dares not call itself that because of China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province and has threatened military action should Taiwan ever declare independence.

In Washington, Taiwan opened the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative’s Office (TECRO) to serve as its de facto embassy after President Carter dropped diplomatic recognition of the Republic of China on Taiwan and established diplomatic relations with the communist People’s Republic of China in what was then Peking.


TECRO’s headquarters are on upper Wisconsin Avenue, but the jewel in its crown of diplomatic properties is a historic 18-acre estate in Cleveland Park known as Twin Oaks.

For months, TECRO representative Jaushieh Joseph Wu has been hosting celebrations of the 120th anniversary of Twin Oaks, which was built in 1888 and used from 1937 to 1979 as the diplomatic residence of nine ambassadors of China before the communist takeover. China purchased the property in 1947.

Mr. Wu issued a special 41-cent commemorative postage stamp to celebrate the anniversary and has thrown receptions for Washington supporters in Congress and the private sector.

However, neither Mr. Wu nor any of his predecessors as Taiwan’s representative here has been able to live in the 26-room mansion stocked with priceless Ch’ing dynasty antiques since the Carter administration recognized the People’s Republic. Taiwan informally agreed not to use the mansion as a diplomatic residence to satisfy State Department officials who feared communist China would be angered if Taiwan housed its representative in a home formerly used by Chinese ambassadors.

So Twin Oaks remains a place for diplomatic receptions and public tours, establishing itself as a physical manifestation of the ambiguity of Taiwan.

Mr. Wu, after about a year and a half, is preparing to return to Taiwan by August to take up a position at the National Cheng Chi University. He will be replaced by Jason Wuan, a former Washington representative for Taiwan’s Kuomintang political party.

Eddy Tsai, TECRO’s press spokesman for three years, also is returning to Taipei to serve in the government information office. He will be replaced by Vance Chang, a graduate of Georgetown University and former director of the Department of Compilation and Translation for the Taiwan government.

RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

The new ambassador from Sri Lanka demonstrated his government’s commitment to religious tolerance on Saturday by hosting leaders from the four major religions of the South Asian nation.

The Venerable Maharagama Dhammasiri Nayake Thero of the Washington Buddhist Vihara and the Venerable Katugastota Uparathana Nayake Thero of the International Buddhist Center in Wheaton invoked Buddhist blessings on the new ambassador, Jaliya Wickramasuriya.

P. Selvaraj from the Sri Lanka Embassy led the Hindu prayers. Buddhists make up 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s population of 20 million, while Hindus make up 15 percent.

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