- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2000

TAIPEI, Taiwan Just days after Chen Shui-bian's stunning election victory, advisers to the president-elect are exploring the pros and cons of a potentially explosive pre-inaugural visit by Mr. Chen to the United States.
It is thought that a pre-inaugural visit would be less offensive to China than a later visit. A trip to the United States by outgoing Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui soured relations between Washington and Beijing for months.
The possibility of a visit is being discussed by Mr. Chen's transition team but for now the priority is to concentrate on a smooth transition, said Hsiao Bi-khim, director of foreign policy for Mr. Chen's DPP.
Even talk of a visit by Mr. Chen to Washington could be enough to spark a fiery response from Beijing, which began firing missiles into the ocean near Taiwan following Mr. Lee's 1995 visit to Cornell University.
Mr. Chen last visited Washington a year ago as the leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), whose long-term goal is to declare Taiwan an independent nation and to take a seat in the community of nations.
Since his election on Saturday, Mr. Chen has made a number of conciliatory gestures toward Beijing, offering to meet Chinese President Jiang Zemin in China, Taiwan or a third country.
He has also muted his party's goal of independence for Taiwan.
Mr. Jiang, in return, said yesterday that he welcomed talks with Mr. Chen aimed at ending five decades of differences between them, but raised what may be an insurmountable obstacle.
Mr. Jiang repeated a long-standing condition for talks: They can only happen if Taiwan agrees that it is an inseparable part of China. This is known as the "one-China principle."
"We said before and still hold today that whoever comes to power in Taiwan, he is welcome to the mainland for talks, and we may also go to Taiwan," Mr. Jiang said.
Pronouncements from Beijing often send Taiwan's stock market plunging, but share prices climbed today, with stocks up 5 percent in early trading. Analysts said buying by government funds and fading fears of war with China inspired the buyers.
While making courtesy calls early today, Mr. Chen did not directly address Mr. Jiang's comments but repeated that he would "seek lasting peace across the Taiwan Strait."
Mr. Chen objects to the "one China" principle because he fears that if he accepts it, he would have to agree that the legitimate government of that single China is the one in Beijing.
In a move seen as a concession to China, Taiwan's parliament today passed a law authorizing direct transportation links between mainland China and the three Taiwanese front-line islands of Kin'men, Matsu and Penghu on a trial basis. Beijing repeatedly has asked for direct links to be approved. Until now, only indirect travel has been allowed.
The defeat of Taiwan's long-ruling Nationalist Party has sparked turmoil in the streets, with police using water cannons and nightsticks to battle hundreds of demonstrators armed with chunks of concrete.
By nightfall, riot police had cleared most of the demonstrators from a plaza in front of the Nationalist Party headquarters.
The protestors, all Nationalist Party supporters, did not question the election's outcome but demanded that Mr. Lee, the outgoing president, step down immediately as party president.
The demonstrators blame Mr. Lee for choosing a colorless candidate as his successor instead of their favorite, James Soong, who quit the Nationalists and nearly won the presidency as an independent.
"It's as if a coach didn't let Michael Jordan play, and he joined another team. James Soong is the Michael Jordan of Taiwan. He was kicked out of the party, so we should fire the coach," said Chen Shing, 40, a restaurateur who was protesting in the warm midday sun.
The DPP's Mrs. Hsiao said she understood the United States needed to negotiate with Beijing, "but our hope is that in doing so, Taiwan's interests are not sacrificed."

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