The US has announced that it will send a four-member official delegation to attend President Chen Shui-bian's (
In addition to congressman James Leach, the chairman of the Asia and the Pacific subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, who had been earlier announced as the leader, the delegation contains a former congressman and former State Department official under the Reagan administration, as well as American Institute in Taiwan Director Douglas Paal.
Joining Leach and Paal will be Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski, who was a leading Taiwan supporter in the Senate, which he left in 2002 after 22 years in Washington, and William Brown, a board member and interim chairman of AIT and former deputy assistant secretary of state for Asia from 1983 to 1985.
There had been speculation that more congressmen and senators would be part of the group, but the inauguration coincides with a crucial period in Congress, a day in which key votes are expected in advance of the lawmakers' weeklong recess for Memorial Day.
The fact that Leach is the head of the delegation contrasts with president Chen's first inauguration in 2000, when no sitting members of Congress attended.
The naming of the delegation comes at a time when Washington has been deeply concerned about Chen's plans for his second term, in the wake of US President George W. Bush's rebuke of Chen last December for actions that could change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.
The Bush administration is concerned that Chen's reform program could alienate China and raise the specter of a move toward independence, which Washington fears could involve it in an eventual war with China. As a result, Washington-Taipei relations have cooled significantly.
US officials are also worried about what Chen will say in his inaugural address, which Taipei is expected to share with Washington officials before it is delivered.
In addition to the official Washington delegation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has put together a larger private group, consisting of three former AIT chairmen and eight prominent US Taiwan academics.
That delegation will include former AIT heads Richard Bush, Nat Belocchi and David Laux, as well as a diverse group of specialists in Chinese and Taiwan affairs.