- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2003

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Chen Shui-bian is slated to address more than 1,000 supporters in New York tonight in spite of a warning from Beijing that the public speech could damage relations between the United States and China.

Mr. Chen, president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), is to speak for about 20 minutes while accepting an award from the International League for Human Rights, an event at the Waldorf Astoria hotel to be hosted by former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

The event marks a breakthrough for Taiwan, which is anxious to raise its international profile in an ever-present tug of war with China. Beijing considers the island a renegade province and blocks it from being represented in international organizations such as the United Nations.

During past visits, the Bush administration limited the profile of Taiwan’s leader to avoid offending China. Mr. Chen was barred from making any public statements during his last U.S. stops, in New York and Houston in June 2001.

A spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office registered Beijing’s displeasure about the current visit, saying on Wednesday, “If Chen engages in unsuitable activities during this transit to the U.S., it could directly impact the overall U.S.-China relationship.

“It will also increase tensions between China and Taiwan,” spokesman Zhang Mingqing was quoted as saying by the state-run China News Service.

A presidential spokesman in Taipei confirmed that Mr. Chen would deliver the speech, but said that no one knows what he plans to say. The Taiwanese leader is known for improvising on the road, and he often deviates from text prepared by his aides.

The Taiwanese leader is campaigning for a second four-year term by openly challenging China’s claim to the island. In speeches lately while touring the island, he has provoked protests from Beijing by affirming that Taiwan is already a sovereign and independent country.

Officially, Mr. Chen is in the United States en route to Panama to celebrate that nation’s 100th anniversary. Panama is one of several dozen nations that maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China.

During his two-night stay in New York, Mr. Chen will meet with Capitol Hill lawmakers of both parties. Congressional support for Taiwan is always strong.

There are no meetings scheduled with Bush administration officials.

Beijing has aggressively protested past visits by Taipei officials to the United States.

In 1995, a visit by President Lee Teng-hui to Cornell University sparked a confrontation that culminated the following year when China staged war games in the Taiwan Strait and the Clinton administration dispatched two naval battle groups to the area.

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