- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Taiwan has proven to be among America's most reliable democratic allies in the war on terrorism, first lady Wu Shu-chen said in a Washington address heavy with symbolism for the island's standoff with mainland China.
The wife of Republic of China (Taiwan) President Chen Shui-bian, making the first visit by a Taiwanese first lady to Washington in 50 years, stayed clear of the bitter dispute over the island's status in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute.
But Mrs. Wu made clear she believed that Taiwan's thriving democracy and contributions to the U.S.-led war on terrorism had earned it a seat in the United Nations and a place in the "community of nations."
"Our support for the United States in the international war on terrorism is simply an automatic mission for us," said Mrs. Wu, speaking through an interpreter.
"We believe we will eventually be able to join the United Nations again," she told a packed audience. "There is no reason for us to be excluded from the community of nations."
Mainland China has reacted in low-key fashion to the first lady's visit but has angrily condemned recent suggestions by Mr. Chen that Taiwan may follow a "separate path" and reject eventual reunification with the mainland.
But Mrs. Wu's private visit is part of a series of recent diplomatic breakthroughs for Taiwan in its battle with Beijing, one in which slight changes in wording and symbolic gestures can have outsized consequences.
Taiwan's vice president recently went on a well-publicized "holiday" to Indonesia, and a high-level Taiwanese Defense Ministry official was invited for talks at the Pentagon earlier this month.
The U.S. flag was raised again in the courtyard of the American diplomatic compound in Taipei to commemorate the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks the first time the flag had been raised there since the United States recognized Beijing in 1979.
Mrs. Wu did not meet with Bush administration officials during her three-day stay in Washington but is set to be honored at a congressional reception on Capitol Hill today before flying on to Los Angeles.
Mrs. Wu's visit, which began with a stop in New York City, is the first by a Taiwanese first lady since the legendary Soong May-ling, wife of Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, visited in the 1950s.
After a rough early patch with Beijing, the Bush administration appears to be trying to restore the delicate balancing game between Taipei and Beijing, warning the mainland against military coercion while trying to restrain separatist sentiments in Taiwan.
Even as Mrs. Wu was speaking, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was meeting with a senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official to discuss Chinese President Jiang Zemin's much-touted visit next month to the Bush presidential ranch in Crawford, Texas.
But Chien-jen Chen, Taiwan's de facto ambassador as head of the Washington office of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, said Mrs. Wu's visit was "significant in many ways," primarily as a showcase for Taiwan's democratic advances in recent years.
The first lady delivered her remarks from a wheelchair, to which she had been confined since a 1985 truck accident that she and her husband, a one-time lawyer for political dissidents, contend was an assassination attempt.


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