- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Friend of Taiwan

As he prepares for the Chinese New Year, Taiwan's representative to the United States is counting his blessings, and President Bush is at the top of his list.

C.J. Chen yesterday said relations with the U.S. administration are better than at any other time since the United States dropped its recognition of Taiwan in 1979 and opened relations with communist China.

"The Bush administration treats us very well. They treat us like friends," he told editors and reporters of The Washington Times at a luncheon at Taiwan's Twin Oaks mansion in Northwest Washington.

Mr. Bush has promised to defend Taiwan against any aggression from China.

"There were people in the Clinton administration who saw Taiwan as a troublemaker," Mr. Chen said.

Although President Clinton allowed former Taiwanese leader Lee Teng-hui to land in the United States for refueling stops amid China's objections, he justified stopovers as safety measures, Mr. Chen said.

Mr. Bush added the word "respect" to explain his decision to allow Chen Shui-bian, the current president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), to visit in 2001, he said.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell calls Taiwan a "success story," the ambassador added. "Communications have never been better."

Taiwan's relations with China continue on a curious course, with the mainland calling the island a renegade province but doing bustling business across the Taiwan Strait. A charter Taiwanese airliner on Sunday made the first commercial flight to China in more than 50 years.

"They still claim Taiwan is part of China, and we do not agree," C.J. Chen said. "The cross-strait relationship is unique."

China has threatened to invade Taiwan if the island declares independence. However, Taiwan says it does not have to claim independence because it has governed its own affairs since 1949, when Chinese nationalists fled to the island after their defeat by Chinese communists.

Eighty percent of Taiwanese want to maintain the status quo and leave Taiwan in the diplomatic twilight.

"If you ask me, I say we are sovereign and independent," C.J. Chen said. "The beauty lies in its ambiguity."

'Big idea' for India

President Bush has high hopes for the continued improvement of U.S.-Indian relations, says Robert Blackwill, the U.S. ambassador to India.

In his first two years in office, Mr. Bush "has been busy implementing a radically new big idea" about how Washington and New Delhi can work together to make "the world freer, more peaceful and more prosperous," Mr. Blackwill told Indian Americans at a dinner last week in Washington.

"He took office determined to move U.S.-India ties to new heights. He saw that our bilateral interaction was still essentially weighted down by Cold War concepts and baggage, still defined largely by disagreements, still limited by infrequent contact.

"Neither side gave the relationship the high priority it deserved, and efforts to improve it lacked urgency and stamina. The president was determined to change that disjunctive pattern."

Mr. Blackwill said Mr. Bush was impressed by India's potential even while he was governor of Texas.

"When I asked Governor Bush … in 1999 about the reasons for his obvious and special interest in India, he immediately responded, 'A billion people in a functioning democracy. Isn't that something?'#" Mr. Blackwill recalled.

When Mr. Bush took office, India was still under U.S. sanctions, imposed after its nuclear weapons test in 1998. He waived the sanctions and slashed a list of 150 companies barred from doing business with Americans to fewer than 20.

"Two years ago, the American and Indian militaries conducted no joint operations," Mr. Blackwill said. "Today they have completed six major training exercises. Two years ago, American and Indian policy-makers did not address together the important issues of cooperative high-technology trade, civil space activity and civilian nuclear power.

"Two years ago, American sanctions against India undermined bilateral diplomatic cooperation on regional and global issues. All that has changed."

Mr. Blackwill attended the dinner at the invitation of longtime Indian journalist Narayan Keshavan, who supplied the details of his speech.

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