- The Washington Times - Monday, August 9, 2004

Diplomatic apology

Taiwan’s new representative to the United States knows he does not have diplomatic status here, but he probably did not expect to be fingerprinted and photographed when he arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport last month.

U.S. authorities have apologized for the mistake and have blamed it on customs officers who were inexperienced with the special relationship between the United States and the Republic of China, which is Taiwan’s official name.

David Ta Wei Lee, the new head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, arrived July 23.

He was accompanied by the acting U.S. representative to Taiwan, William Brown, who tried to explain to customs officials that Mr. Lee should be exempt from the new passport security measures designed to stop terrorists from entering the United States.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Richard Shih told the Taipei Times that the customs inspectors had violated the U.S.-Taiwanese agreement that has governed bilateral ties since the United States broke formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1978 and recognized communist China.

“However, the Department of State has already offered its apologies,” he said. “In addition, … Brown, who was present at the time, already apologized to Lee.”

The Taiwanese press is playing the incident as a serious blow to diplomatic protocol, but Mr. Shih attributed it to a mistake by “customs officials who are not familiar with their duties.”

Mr. Lee travels on an E1 visa, which is issued to business travelers, and not on a diplomatic visa.

Mad in Manila

The lack of a simple joint statement yesterday underlined the damage to U.S.-Philippine relations caused by Manila’s decision to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone declined to endorse a prepared statement after his meeting with Foreign Secretary Delia Albert. A source told the Reuters news agency that the statement was “too friendly.”

The meeting was the first since Mr. Ricciardone returned to Manila after a visit to Washington last week for consultations. Washington criticized Manila’s decision to meet the demands of terrorists who had kidnapped a Philippine truck driver and threatened to kill him unless it withdrew its 51 troops from Iraq.

“I won’t suggest that nothing has happened,” the ambassador said in Manila after the meeting. “We did have a serious disagreement. It is one that we think has had a decided impact on our relations with the Philippines.”

He added, however, that the United States will continue to “work as hard as we can on all things that are important to both our countries.”

The foreign secretary said, “Our relations go beyond any disagreement we may have had over the issue of Iraq. Our relations continue to be strong because of the deep respect we have for each other.”

Pakistan shocked

Pakistan yesterday complained to the U.S. Embassy about an FBI sting operation that involved a fake plot to kill Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations.

“It is mind-boggling,” said Masood Khan, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman.

The arrests of two persons in Albany, N.Y., last week suspected of links to Islamist terrorists involved their attempt to buy a shoulder-fired missile from an undercover agent and a fake plan to assassinate U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram.

“At one level this is a bizarre story, at another quite dangerous,” Mr. Khan said.

“This had increased our ambassador’s and our [U.N.] mission’s vulnerability. This technique and methodology is tantamount to auto suggestion and could have endangered the life of our ambassador.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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