- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2001

NEW YORK — Taiwans leader, Chen Shui-bian, arrived in New York yesterday for a two-day private visit that will include meetings with U.S. congressmen and business leaders.
China has said little about the visit, which follows a heightening of tension between Beijing and Washington.
About 500 people waving the green-and-white flags of Mr. Chens pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party stood in cold rain outside the Waldorf-Astoria waiting for him to arrive. About 50 supporters of mainland China stood nearby. Mr. Chen, traveling in a private jet, landed at Newarks airport shortly after 5 p.m.
Mr. Chen and an entourage heavy with economic and business advisers are making the 48-hour stopover en route to El Salvador for a summit of five Central American leaders whose nations have established diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.
He will visit the rest of those nations — Panama, Guatemala, Paraguay and Honduras — before heading home via Houston, where he will dine with Sen. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican.
He and his wife, Wu Shu-che, were to meet last night with a delegation of nearly two dozen congressmen, about half of whom are members of the House International Relations Committee.
"Everyone is aware of the significance of the Chen visit, and they want to show support for democracy in Taiwan," said Al Sentoli, a senior adviser to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who organized the evening meeting. "They also want to show that Beijing cannot dictate to the U.S. Congress how we should relate with our democratic friends."
The Bush administration has been at loggerheads with Beijing over a collision between a U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter near Chinas Hainan island on April 1, and over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
The administration has permitted Mr. Chen unprecedented freedom during this visit.
Previous visiting Taiwanese authorities have been persuaded to route their journeys through Los Angeles or Honolulu, and asked to keep so low a profile that some Taiwanese compared the restrictions to house arrest — unfitting treatment for the leader of an important trade partner.
U.S. visits by Taiwanese authorities, either in transit or for personal reasons, always generate tension in Washington, where administration officials must be careful to show Beijing that they are not inching toward diplomatic recognition of an island the Chinese consider to be a breakaway territory.
But Beijing has been curiously quiet on Mr. Chens trip. Chinese authorities have issued no statements on the matter.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher described the visit as a "transit that was arranged for the safety, comfort and convenience of the traveler."
"President Chen has done this before. So we … dont see why there should be any impact on the relationship with Peoples Republic of China," he said.
During his two-night stay in New York, Mr. Chen also will receive a courtesy call from New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and visit the New York Stock Exchange and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Mr. Chens entourage includes Foreign Minister Tien Hung-mao and Economics Minister Lin Hsin-i, among other Cabinet members. He is also bringing Taiwanese press, representatives of key economic organizations, entrepreneurs and local government officials.
Before departing yesterday, Mr. Chen portrayed the visit as a potential economic and political booster.
"Taiwan is a sovereign, independent country. To let the international community acknowledge that, we must stand up and go out frequently," he said before boarding a chartered Boeing 747. "We should let the whole world see the Republic of China."
Previous Taiwanese visits, however low-key, have provoked anger in Beijing.
The landmark 1995 U.S. visit by Lee Teng-hui, then president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), provoked months of war games in the narrow Taiwan Straits.
The Clinton administration worked hard to engage China, offering most-favored-nation trading status and campaigning mightily to bring it into the World Trade Organization. Mr. Clinton and scores of business and political figures traveled to China in the middle of his tenure.
But President Bush has begun his administrations relationship to Beijing with a different note, refusing to apologize for the collision of a U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese jet fighter over international waters and then speaking in unusually clear language about his administrations intention to defend Taiwan militarily, if necessary.
The U.S. visit, Mr. Chens second foreign trip in the year since he was elected to office, comes as Taiwans economy is starting to slow and criticism of his leadership is mounting.
A poll published yesterday by Taipeis United Daily News showed that the Taiwanese are not enthusiastic about his 16-day trip.
Only 46 percent of the respondents favored the voyage, while 38 percent were against it. And 63 percent of Taiwanese residents said they opposed "checkbook diplomacy," a reference to the loans and investments to poor nations that often precede an exchange of ambassadors. Twenty-nine nations formally recognize the government in Taipei, almost all of them poor nations in Latin America and Africa.
* Bill Gertz in Washington contributed to this article.


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