- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2001

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian plans to sample American culture from Wall Street to a Houston baseball field during a three-day stop in the United States this month — a visit that looks certain to roil U.S. ties with China at an especially delicate time.
Mr. Chen will fly into New Yorks LaGuardia International Airport on May 21 and will stay at the Waldorf Astoria en route to Latin America, the state-run Central News Agency reported.
While in New York, Mr. Chen will meet with Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, American academics, prominent members of the overseas Chinese community and possibly with U.S. lawmakers, the Chinese-language United Daily News reported from Washington.
A State Department official confirmed that Mr. Chen will arrive in New York May 21 and depart for Latin America two days later. On the way back home, he will transit through Houston, arriving on June 2 and leaving for home the following day.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Taiwanese president has been granted a transit visa and any meetings while in the United States would be arranged by the Taiwanese.
Mr. Chen will be traveling with Taiwans first lady, Wu Shu-jen, and both are scheduled to visit the New York Stock Exchange and the Metropolitan Museum on May 22, Taiwanese reports said.
The following day, Mr. Chen will fly to El Salvador, where he will attend a summit of Taiwans Latin American allies. The leader will also visit Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay and Honduras on his second trip to Latin America since his inauguration last year.
On the return trip through Houston, Mr. Chen will stop over in Houston on June 2 and 3 to meet with Mayor Lee Brown, attend an Astros baseball game and have lunch at the "Taste of Texas" steakhouse, the United Daily News said.
The U.S. government granted approval late Friday for Mr. Chen to transit through the two cities, and the reports said that the Chinese Embassy in Washington has already protested the stopover.
China considers Taiwan a breakaway province and pressures other nations to limit visits by senior Taiwanese officials.
The visit comes during a testy period in U.S.-China relations, with tensions high over the recent downing of a U.S. surveillance plane and its retention on Chinas Hainan island, Beijings detention of several U.S. scholars of Chinese origin and Chinas opposition to President Bushs proposed missile-defense shield.
A U.S. visa issued to then-President Lee Teng-hui in June 1995 sparked a bitter dispute between Washington and Beijing that culminated the following spring — when China fired missiles off both ends of Taiwan and the United States responded by sending two aircraft carrier battle groups to the region.
When Mr. Chen last transited through the United States in August, he was limited to a 15-hour stopover in Los Angeles and pressured by U.S. officials to back out of a reception being hosted by more than a dozen U.S. congressmen.
Mr. Chen would be the first Taiwanese president to pass through New York.
This time, the United Daily News said, the State Department does not plan to bar U.S. lawmakers from meeting Mr. Chen.
Despite a lack of formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the United States has maintained close unofficial relations with the island and has committed to selling it weapons to defend against Chinese threats.
Taiwan has diplomatic relations with only 29 countries — mostly aid-hungry nations in Latin America and Africa.


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