A senior US State Department official says that his decision not to talk to the Taipei Times because of its criticism of US Secretary of State Colin Powell in a Taipei Times editorial was his own, and not a decision of the department or the Bush administration.
Randall Schriver, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in charge of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, said, "It was a response from me personally." He added: "I didn't talk to anybody about it."
That resolved a question that was raised but which went unanswered when Schriver called the Washington correspondent of the Taipei Times to say he would not talk to the correspondent or the newspaper again because of the reference to Powell in the editorial.
Schriver objected to the description of Powell in the editorial as "that sorry wreck of a once principled man."
He said he felt that description was "way over the top."
"I have enormous respect for the man," Schriver said. "The editorial page is where the paper as an entity expresses its views. And if that's the position of the paper, then I personally have a big problem with it."
Schriver said he was not objecting to the editorial as a whole, or to the policy issues raised by the editorial.
"I was not responding to any policy statement, but what I regarded as a personal shot at the secretary," he said.
The editorial, entitled "US' Taiwan policy is in shambles," discussed recent statements by Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, which appeared to signal a major negative shift in Bush administration policy toward Taiwan in recent months.
During that period, Powell said that the US' intention was for Taiwan's "reunification" with China. Earlier, after a lunch in Washington with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星), he said -- inaccurately -- that "there is no support in the United States for an independence movement in Taiwan" because independence "would be inconsistent with our obligations and our commitment to our one-China policy."
The editorial also cited more recent statements by Armitage describing Taiwan as a "landmine" in US-China relations and asserting that "we all agree that there is but one China, and Taiwan is part of China."
The editorial pointed out that no US administration had said that before.
Armitage also expressed the opinion that the US is under no obligation to come to Taiwan's aid if China attacked.
While that is legally true under the Taiwan Relations Act, such a statement has for decades been anathema to US administrations and a violation of bedrock policies going back to US recognition of the Beijing government.
Charles Snyder is the Taipei Times Washington correspondent.