- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

Taiwan to-do

Wu Li-pei, a senior adviser to Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian, insists he doesn’t know what the fuss is all about.

Mr. Wu, in Washington for the National Prayer Breakfast, arrived in the churning wake of an unusually public tussle between the United States and the Republic of China, as Taiwan is formally known, over Mr. Chen’s policy regarding mainland China.

“Our president had no intention of being provocative to anyone,” Mr. Wu told our correspondent David R. Sands. “We do not understand why anyone would get so excited.”

The Taiwanese leader late last month floated the idea of abolishing a largely inactive presidential council charged with overseeing policy for a potential reunification with the mainland.

Some analysts say the move would imply that Taiwan is making a unilateral move toward a public declaration of independence and could provoke a military response from the communist government in China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province. The United States is committed to Taiwan’s defense but opposes any move to change the murky status between the island and the mainland.

Without prompting, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli forcefully restated the U.S. position at a Jan. 31 briefing, strongly implying that the Bush administration had been blindsided by Mr. Chen’s proposal.

“We certainly weren’t expecting it. We weren’t consulted about it. So I’d say it was a surprise,” Mr. Ereli said.

Mr. Wu argued that the council has been inactive for six years, getting by on a purely symbolic budget of $1 a year. He complained that Mr. Chen was castigated merely for saying he was “considering” the idea, while the Chinese government has embarked on a very real military buildup and passed laws against Taiwan’s secession.

“China is the one who is threatening the status quo,” Mr. Wu said.

He added that the very existence of the reunification council and its guidelines was in conflict with Mr. Chen’s policy, which is that only the people of Taiwan can determine their political future.

The adviser denied that politics had played a part in Mr. Chen’s remarks, which were delivered to supporters from his ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Mr. Wu said the leader naturally hopes to see his party succeed against the more pro-Beijing opposition in the 2008 elections.

Mr. Chen, the first Taiwanese leader from the DPP, “would really blame himself if the party lost power,” Mr. Wu said. “He feels it is up to him to give the party a clear direction.”

Venezuelan oil

Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez Herrera yesterday promised that his country will continue providing oil to the United States, despite a threat from President Hugo Chavez to close his U.S.-based refineries.

“We are and we are going to be a reliable source of oil for the world, including the United States,” Mr. Alvarez told Reuters news agency in Washington.

The ambassador’s pledge came after a week of diplomatic tensions between the two countries that began when Mr. Chavez accused U.S. naval attache Cmdr. John Correa of spying and expelled him from Venezuela. Washington retaliated by ordering Mr. Alvarez’s chief of staff, Jenny Figueredo, to leave.

Mr. Chavez, who has repeatedly accused the Bush administration of plotting against him, has strengthened his alliance with Cuba and Iran.

Romanian bases

The State Department noted yesterday that the United States reached an agreement with Romania for the joint use of the southeast European nation’s military bases there.

Embassy Row on Wednesday referred to the facilities as U.S. bases. Also, the agreement must be approved by the Romanian parliament.

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

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