- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2002

China, seething over the visit of Taiwan's defense minister to Florida earlier this month, has denied a U.S. warship permission to visit Hong Kong and hinted that a planned visit to the United States by Vice President Hu Jintao may be in jeopardy.
The U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong said yesterday that Beijing has rejected a request for the USS Curtis Wilbur to visit Hong Kong April 5-9. The Wilbur is a guided missile destroyer based in Yokohama, Japan.
The U.S. government was informed about the denial of permission on March 18.
"The Chinese did not give any rationale" for denying the visit, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday.
But Zhang Qiyue, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Beijing, said that while the request was rejected according to Hong Kong regulations, the underlying problem is tension over Taiwan.
She insisted that Washington "cease interfering in China's internal affairs by using Taiwan issues and undermining bilateral affairs."
Asked whether this tension might lead to the postponement or cancellation of a planned U.S. visit by Mr. Hu, heir apparent to Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Miss Zhang said that any time the United States violates the "Three Joint Communiques" that define the bilateral relationship, it will have an "adverse effect" in U.S.-Chinese relations.
She said China and the United States agreed on a number of steps to improve relations during President Bush's visit to China in February, but "within the short period of one month, the American side has taken a series of actions … that have damaged China-U.S. relations."
James Lilly, former ambassador to China, said the denial of permission for the warship to visit is just a "slap on the wrist no big deal." He deemed it unlikely that Mr. Hu's visit would be canceled.
Mr. Lilly, who is at the American Enterprise Institute, said this is all part of the continuing push and pull on U.S., China and Taiwan relations.
"They were really worried about [former Taiwan President] Lee Teng-hui coming, but he canceled his visit for domestic reasons," Mr. Lilly said. "That is a plus," he said, since it could have clouded the Hu visit.
Taiwan's defense minister, Tang Yiau-ming, met with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz during a March 11-13 private conference in St. Petersburg, Fla., that was sponsored by the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council. It was the first such gathering attended by a Taiwanese defense minister since Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China 1979.
Yesterday, in a meeting with U.S. Sens. Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat, and Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji said Mr. Tang's trip was one of "a series of actions that violated" U.S.-Chinese agreements.
China is annoyed with the United States over its relations with Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province and seeks to reunify with the mainland. It has threatened to use force if the island declares independence.
While the United States has promised not to obstruct the one-China principle, it is legally obligated to consult Congress if the island is attacked. Mr. Bush has agreed to sell more and better arms to Taiwan to help the island defend itself.


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