Mon, Mar 25, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Rumors fly as Lee puts off US visit

STAYING HOME Days after being released from hospital, the ex-president postponed his planned trip to the US -- on advise from his doctors or to deal with the National Security Bureau allegations?

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

The postponement of a US visit by Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) has led to speculation that the former president is putting off the trip to deal with allegations surrounding the National Security Bureau.

Lee was scheduled to visit the US in May to give a speech at the National Press Club in Washington.

According to local media, Peter Hickman, vice chairman of the club's speakers committee, said Lee has put off the trip "due to health considerations."

Hickman said he didn't know the specific reason for the postponement, but heard that "it may have to do with Lee's physical condition."

Lee was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday after spending nine days there for treatment for pneumonia and shoulder tendinitis.

TSU lawmakers say Lee hasn't cancelled the trip but has postponed the visit until June or July on the advice of his doctors.

Still, many believe that allegations surrounding the National Security Bureau and two secret funds containing NT$3.5 billion played a part in Lee's decision.

"This is just the beginning of the domino effect that is going to rock the nation's politics," said a high-ranking official in the Presidential Office, who declined to be identified. "Lee has to cancel the trip to stay in the country to deal with the allegations made by the media and opposition politicians."

The official said an overseas trip would leave Lee open to questions from international media and US politicians as well.

According to reports by the China Times and Next magazine last week, the National Security Bureau under Lee's administration set up two secret accounts that were beyond legislative oversight. The reports claim the accounts were, in essence, Lee's "private stash."

Lee allegedly used the funds to strengthen Taiwan's diplomatic ties, pay for research in international affairs and send presents to his subordinates, the reports said. The reports also said funds went to the Taiwan Research Institute, a think tank founded by Lee.

Critics have said the revelations have undermined the nation's diplomatic ties and information-gathering efforts in China and elsewhere overseas.

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