- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2003

Taiwan’s vice president has scrubbed a previously announced visit to New York later this month at a time when Taiwanese officials are increasingly worried about a perceived U.S. tilt toward the mainland.

Officials in Taipei announced July 10 that Vice President Annette Lu would visit New York and three other U.S. cities en route to and from Central and South America.

But officials said yesterday that stop in New York is off and another stop in Los Angeles is up in the air.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday he was “not aware” of any decision to block a New York visit, but several Taiwanese newspapers reported that the New York request had been denied because the trip had been announced prematurely and because of the high visibility Taiwan was giving to the visit.

China considers the Republic of China (Taiwan) a renegade province, and overseas visits by Taiwan’s elected leaders have become a proxy in the fierce diplomatic struggle between Beijing and Taipei.

In revealing Miss Lu’s travel plans last month, Taiwanese officials noted it was the first time a government official had been permitted to stop in four U.S. cities.

The United States does not officially recognize Taiwan’s government, but has long allowed Taiwanese leaders to make private “transit stops” in American cities, primarily on the West Coast, on the condition they do not participate in official or political events.

Beijing has reacted furiously in the past to foreign visits by Taiwanese elected officials, notably when the Clinton administration approved a 1995 visit by President Lee Teng-hui to Cornell University, where he had studied, for a reunion.

For its part, Taipei tends to trumpet official and unofficial trips by leading members of the government. President Chen Shui-bian hailed a visit by his wife, Wu Shu-chien, last month to Berlin and the Vatican, a trip that included an audience with Pope John Paul II.

“The government will press ahead with the struggle to cast off the diplomatic isolation Beijing has imposed on Taiwan,” he said.

The centerpiece of Miss Lu’s itinerary is the Aug. 15 inauguration of Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte Frutos. Paraguay is just one of 27 countries — and the only one in South America — that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. She is also slated to visit Panama on her trip.

Originally, Taipei said late last month that Miss Lu would make stopovers in Hawaii, Seattle and New York before going to Paraguay. She was then to return home by way of New York and Los Angeles, with meetings scheduled with Taiwan-American groups.

It was not clear yesterday whether the Los Angeles trip was still on. Taiwanese officials would only confirm that Miss Lu planned to visit Seattle and Honolulu during her trip, which begins next week.

But presidential spokesman Huang Chih-fang said Wednesday that the vice president’s schedule was still being arranged and insisted the United States had offered “no opinion” on whether Miss Lu could stay in New York during the trip.

Taiwanese officials have watched nervously as Sino-U.S. relations have improved steadily under new Chinese President Hu Jintao. Beijing and Washington have worked closely together in recent months in the war on terrorism and the North Korea nuclear crisis.

High-level delegations from Taiwan and the mainland have both been to Washington in recent weeks, lobbying the Bush administration.

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