The US-Taiwan Business Council chairman, former US defense secretary William Cohen, has put off a long-planned visit to Taipei in view of the raging SARS epidemic, council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers said Thursday.
Cohen's visit, originally planned for the end of the month, has been postponed until "later in the year," Hammond-Chambers said.
The visit would have been the first for Cohen since he was named chairman of the council last year.
The cancelation is the latest sign of the depth of the impact of SARS on Taiwan's relations with the US and the rest of the world.
"Everybody is cancelling their trips," Hammond-Chambers said, referring both to his members and other US businesspeople.
The council itself issued a warning to its members cautioning them against travel to Taiwan on May 2, a day after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta issued a travel advisory. "The US-Taiwan Business Council urges our members traveling to Taiwan and to Asia to familiarize themselves with SARS and to take appropriate steps to protect their health," the notice said. It noted that the CDC had advised people planning "elective or nonessential" travel to Taiwan to think about postponing the trip.
Cohen had been scheduled to lead a Business Council trip to Taipei on May 26-28, before heading on to Singapore for an Asian Security Conference being held by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
That conference, called the "Shangri-La Dialogue" because it is held in the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, brings together hundreds of defense secretaries, former secretaries, US congress members and other regional legislators to discuss Asian regional security issues.
US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is scheduled to attend, and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger is slated to give the opening address.
That meeting, which will be held May 30 to June 1, is still on.
The US-Taiwan Business Council's Taiwan trip was to focus on technology integration and business integration between the US, Taiwan and China. Cohen and the delegation were also expecting to meet with President Chen Shui-bian and other government leaders.
Those meetings, and meetings with Taiwan's business leaders, were to deal mainly with such issues as intellectual property rights, agriculture, defense and security, according to Hammond-Chambers.The trip will be rescheduled later, in conjunction with other regional travel, he said.