- The Washington Times - Friday, January 14, 2000

Taiwan's message

Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui has found a new way to get his message to a sympathetic U.S. audience without fighting the State Department for a visa.

He plans to deliver a videotaped speech next week to a convention of prominent conservative activists at their annual conference in Northern Virginia.

Mr. Lee's representatives in Washington expect flak from the communist mainland government of the People's Republic of China (PRC), which considers the democratic government of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan as illegitimate.

"If they know about it, they will certainly object," said Eric C.C. Chiang, spokesman for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, Taiwan's unofficial diplomatic mission here.

The Chinese Embassy Thursday denounced Mr. Lee's scheduled speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

"We oppose strongly the tactics of any organization to provide a forum for Lee Teng-hui to preach his two-China or one-China, one-Taiwan theory in this country," said spokesman Yu Shu Ning.

Mr. Yu added that Mr. Lee's 1995 visit to the United States "did a lot of harm to U.S.-China relations."

Most recently, China said it would also object to Mr. Lee visiting the United States after he leaves office. His term is due to end after the March 18 presidential election.

"We think it is ridiculous," Mr. Chiang said. "As a private citizen, he should be able to visit any country. We find it incomprehensible. Even the State Department would have to agree."

Mr. Chiang said Mr. Lee's speech on Jan. 20 will likely review U.S.-Taiwanese relations and emphasize close trading ties with the United States.

"We still buy more from the United States than the PRC. Twenty-three million people on Taiwan buy more than 1 billion on the mainland," he said.

Taiwan bought $18 billion in U.S. goods in 1998, according to U.S. figures. Mr. Chiang cited a higher figure of $22 billion. U.S. statistics show China bought $14 billion in American goods in the same year.

Mr. Lee outraged China last year by calling for "state-to-state" relations between China and Taiwan, but endeared himself to conservatives.

"This will be one of the most important speeches given in the 27 years of CPAC," said conference Chairman David A. Keene.

"The United States has enjoyed a strong relationship with the government and people of the Republic of China for decades.

"It is, therefore, fitting and timely that when we stand on the threshold of the 21st century that we recognize [Mr. Lee] as a world leader who honors democracy, free trade, and upholds the individual human rights of the citizens of his nation," Mr. Keene said.

On another subject that may be addressed in Mr. Lee's speech, Mr. Chiang said Taiwan's presidential election is too close to call.

The ruling Kuomintang party has dominated Taiwan for more than 50 years.

Now the party's candidate, Lien Chan, is in a dead heat with Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party and James Soong, former governor of Taiwan province.

"No one can tell you with confidence what the outcome will be," Mr. Chiang said.

Tracking terrorists

U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Celeste this week promised that the United States will help India catch the hijackers of an India Airlines plane who walked free after trading hostages for terrorists jailed in India.

"We will not rest until the hijackers are tracked down and brought to justice," Mr. Celeste told a business seminar in New Delhi.

"We take terrorism extremely seriously. We do not want anyone to feel there is a safe harbor."

India released three Kashmir terrorists New Year's Eve in return for the release of 155 passengers and crew who were held on board the plane in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

India has accused Pakistan of planning the hijacking, a charge Pakistan strongly denies.

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