- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2001

NEW YORK American lawmakers yesterday called for strengthening U.S. ties with Taiwan, even as Beijing leveled renewed criticism at Washington for a warm reception given to Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian here and to the Dalai Lama in Washington.
"The U.S. has interfered in Chinas internal affairs and has damaged Chinas national interest on issues such as Taiwan and Tibet," said Zhu Bangzao, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing.
President Bush is scheduled to meet the Dalai Lama, Tibets exiled spiritual leader, at the White House today. That meeting was announced on the second day of a three-day visit to New York by Mr. Chen, president of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
Mr. Chens visit yesterday included heavily photographed tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Stock Exchange and private conversations with scholars and lawmakers.
Nearly two dozen congressmen flew to New York Monday evening for a private dinner with Mr. Chen.
Over a banquet of bisque with wontons, and Chinese mustard greens and steak, the congressmen expressed their support for Taiwans self-defense, noted its importance as a U.S. trading partner, and advocated its inclusion in international bodies such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
There were about 100 guests at the dinner, according to participants, including some 65 members of the Taiwan delegation.
"It was as official looking as a banquet could be without being official," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican.
"Our first concern is for Taiwans security, our second concern is to make sure that it is accepted into the family of nations," he said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Participants said Mr. Chen told the group that he was looking forward to talking to American lawmakers and Chinese leaders to create a nonviolent solution to cross-strait tensions.
Mr. Chen also said his people were eager to join the WTO, and hoped to do so on schedule, even if Chinas application for membership is delayed.
Two-way trade between the United States and Taiwan runs about $116 billion annually, with Taiwan buying more American products than China.
Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, said yesterday that the United States should begin to negotiate a free-trade agreement with Taiwan once it becomes a WTO member.
"I dont expect negotiations on a free-trade agreement to start right away," Mr. Baucus said on the Senate floor. "But it is a vision toward which we should all work."
The Chinese government, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province, firmly opposes any nation upgrading its relations with Taipei.
"Recently, the U.S. government has taken a hard-line attitude and policies toward China," said the Chinese Foreign Ministrys Mr. Zhu. "On issues such as Taiwan, Tibet and religious affairs, it has endlessly interfered in Chinas internal affairs and hurt Chinas interests."
Relations between the two countries have grown strained in recent months, with President Bush stating that the United States would defend Taiwan and approving the largest-ever arms sale package to the island nation.
U.S.-China ties have been further strained by the April collision of a U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese interceptor, criticism of Beijings human rights record and the detention of several Chinese-American scholars on spying charges.
Nevertheless, a senior U.S. official yesterday characterized relations between the United States and China as "stable."
The official, who asked not to be named, also said President Bush is confident the U.S. surveillance plane, which remains in Chinese custody on Hainan island, will be returned.
Unlike last August, when Mr. Chen transited through Los Angeles for a tightly controlled 15-hour layover, this time he enjoyed considerable freedom during his 48 hours in New York.
He will leave this afternoon for Latin America and will visit Houston early next month on his way back to Taipei.


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