- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2003

From combined dispatches

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan reported a case of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) today, sparking fears the disease may return this winter.

“The patient, a 44-year-old SARS lab scientist who started developing flulike symptoms, including fever, cough and diarrhea, late last Wednesday, was first hospitalized in Tri-Service General Hospital,” Center for Disease Control director Su Ih-Jen told a press conference. “Due to some early experiences, the patient has been quick to be isolated by the hospital and was then tested positive for SARS.”

The patient, who was sent to Taipei’s SARS-specialized Hoping Hospital on Wednesday morning, became the first case with the highly contagious disease since Singapore reported a lab accident that caused a new SARS case in September.

Because the patient traveled to Singapore last week to attend an international conference, the Health Department said it has begun to trace all those who have had close contact with the patient, even though he developed no symptoms until he returned home.

The Health Department announced all citizens should take their body temperature to curb any possible outbreak of SARS and any forms of influenza.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s war of words with China continued as the opposition Nationalist Party’s presidential candidate yesterday declined to embrace his party’s long-held policy that Taiwan eventually should unify with China.

Lien Chan’s repeated refusal to endorse the unification policy, during a news conference with foreign reporters, marked a major shift in the party’s position on China relations — one of the most important issues in the March 20 election.

Mr. Lien’s comments indicated that his campaign has taken a big step toward the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s China policy — a stance Mr. Lien once warned would continue to block peace talks with the mainland. Beijing has threatened to attack if Taiwan refuses to unify eventually.

China and Taiwan split after the communists toppled the mainland-based Nationalist government in 1949, forcing them to retreat to this island. Since their defeat, the Nationalists have pledged to seek eventual unification.

In recent years, the party — officially called the Chinese Nationalist Party or Kuomintang — has said Taiwan gradually should rejoin the mainland when communism gives way to democracy and a more developed economy.

But yesterday, Mr. Lien repeatedly declined to endorse the policy of eventual unification — unpopular with many voters. Instead, he only said that he favored the status quo — no immediate moves toward independence or unification.

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