Wednesday, April 7, 2004

The head of the unofficial U.S. government office in charge of ties with Taiwan resigned yesterday amid reports that the Chinese government opposed her pro-Taiwan views.

Therese Shaheen, director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), sent a letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters.

“In it, she said that with the conclusion of elections in Taiwan, it was an appropriate time for her to step aside, and said that she wanted to spend more time with her daughter,” Mr. Ereli said.

The letter stated that Mrs. Shaheen also wanted to resume her career in the private sector.

“The period during which I served has been [a] challenging and important one for U.S.-Taiwan relations,” she stated. “During my tenure, I did my best to represent our country and the president’s policy objectives.”

State Department officials said Mrs. Shaheen was allowed to resign but had been pressed to leave the post over differences on Taiwan policy.

One official said Mrs. Shaheen had threatened to complain to President Bush’s brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a friend with whom Mrs. Shaheen had shared business interests.

Other Bush administration officials said Mrs. Shaheen was pressured out because she was a strong defender of Taiwan and clashed with pro-China AIT official Douglas Paal, the U.S. representative in Taipei.

These officials said Mrs. Shaheen and Mr. Paal clashed during a meeting with the president last year, in which Mr. Paal suggested that the White House state publicly that the United States opposed Taiwanese independence.

Mrs. Shaheen backed the three-decade U.S. policy and urged the president to continue to leave open the U.S. stance on any future Taiwan independence, prompting Mr. Bush to ask what was the difference.

Mrs. Shaheen explained that opposing independence might influence the ultimate disposition of Taiwan and that both political parties on the island have recognized that independence is one potential outcome of the future of the island, which communist China regards as a renegade province.

Two Bush administration officials told The Washington Times that the Chinese government had targeted Mrs. Shaheen since September and had pressed U.S. officials in several public and private channels to have her removed from the post.

Mr. Ereli acknowledged that Chinese government officials have complained about Mrs. Shaheen “in some forum but not at the level of the secretary.”

Mr. Ereli denied that Beijing directly asked that she be removed from the AIT post.

“China never asked that Managing Director Shaheen be removed, nor would the United States in any way be responsive to such requests if they were made,” he said.

Officials said no replacement has been named for Mrs. Shaheen. One candidate for the post was identified by officials as Stephen A. Schlaikjer, a State Department official.

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