- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 27, 2004

The United States yesterday backed Taiwan’s bid to become a permanent observer in the Organization of American States, a day after the 35-member group approved by consensus the same status for China.

The Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) agreed to put Taipei’s application on the agenda for its next meeting.

“We would look forward to a good discussion of Taiwan’s efforts to find a way to contribute in a positive and constructive way to the work of the OAS,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.

Not to anger Beijing, which views the island as part of its territory, Mr. Boucher hastened to add that “precedents do exist for non-state organizations to participate in some fashion.”

Mr. Boucher said Washington also supports Taiwan’s application for an observer status at the World Health Organization in Geneva, which was rejected for the eighth time earlier this month.

“Our view has been that Taiwan should be able to participate in international organizations that don’t require statehood for membership,” he said.

Although OAS members are only countries in the Western Hemisphere, it has 60 observers. The group is dedicated to peace and security in the region.

China, whose candidacy the United States supported, has boosted its diplomatic and economic relations with Latin America in recent years, offering the region access to the vast Chinese market.

Twenty-six countries recognize Taiwan as an independent state, and half of them are in Latin America.

Yesterday, China accused Annette Lu, vice president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), of trying to “sabotage” Sino-U.S. relations by making a transit stop in the United States en route to Latin America. It also criticized Washington for allowing the stop.

“By giving a green light to the Taiwanese leaders to transit there, the U.S. is giving the wrong signal to the Taiwanese authorities that has brought about a negative impact on China-U.S. relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in Beijing. “We urge the U.S. side to see clearly the harmfulness of this action.”

Mrs. Lu is expected to visit Las Vegas and San Francisco in late May and early June and to meet with members of Congress.

“It’s a transit,” Mr. Boucher said on Wednesday. “It’s being done for the safety, convenience and comfort of the traveler.”

Also yesterday, Taiwan extended an olive branch to Beijing by inviting China’s top envoy on Taiwan policy to visit the island.

“We feel this is not only the common wish of the Taiwanese people but also the deep aspiration of the people on mainland China,” said Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s new top policy-maker on China.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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