- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2004

Taiwan troubles

Taiwan’s representative to the United States returns to Washington this week amid reports that he offered to resign for failing to prevent a diplomatic chill between his government and the Bush administration, normally Taiwan’s strongest defender.

Chen Chien-jen canceled a news conference in Taiwan on Friday, after the China Times reported his resignation offer to President Chen Shui-ban. However, the president urged Mr. Chen to stay on as de facto ambassador to the United States from the Republic of China (Taiwan), a presidential spokesman said this weekend.

The newspaper reported that the diplomat was upset over the president’s plans to hold a “peace” referendum during the March 20 presidential election. The referendum asks China to remove nearly 500 missiles aimed at the island, which China considers to be a renegade province and threatens to invade if it ever declares independence.

President Bush last month criticized President Chen over the referendum issue out of concern that the measure could worsen relations between China and Taiwan.

The public censure caused Mr. Chen to blame himself for the hiccup in U.S.-Taiwan relations, political analysts in Taiwan said.

The Taiwanese government dismissed any link between the resignation offer and the referendum.

Mr. Chen “told the president recently that if the president found a more suitable replacement or had other considerations, he would be most willing to step down,” spokesman James Huang told reporters.

“The president instead encouraged him to stay at this post to continue working for the country.”

Czechs advance

The Czech Republic returned fully to the West in 2003, Czech Ambassador Martin Palous noted in a New Year’s message.

“The year marked the final stepping stone in negotiating our re-entry into the family of modern, democratic and prosperous European nations,” he wrote in the latest Czech Embassy newsletter.

“The year 2004 will see the momentous accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union. Only time can reveal what other significant challenges will emerge for us and the rest of the world.”

Mr. Palous reviewed the Washington visits of President Vaclav Klaus in November and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla.

“We have enjoyed political engagements of the highest level — always challenging, always demanding and always satisfying,” he said.

Mr. Klaus met with Vice President Dick Cheney, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Mr. Spidla held talks with President Bush in a meeting that “stood as a testament to the best relations between the Czech Republic and the United States to date,” the ambassador said.

Mr. Palous also reviewed Czech support for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

“The two countries stood side by side in Iraq during combat operations and through the subsequent reconstruction phase,” he said.

Mr. Palous expressed his hopes for progress toward peace in the Middle East and for “greater freedom” for nations such as Cuba, Burma and North Korea.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Tomorrow

• Maj. Gen. Doron Almog, former commander of the Israeli Defense Forces Southern Command, who addresses the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs on Israel’s efforts to control terrorism in the Gaza Strip.

• Alicia Casas of Oilwatch Costa Rica, who attends a forum on “petro-politics” sponsored by the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network.

Thursday

cPrime Minister Driss Jettou of Morocco, who addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies on the kingdom’s political reforms.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected].

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