Wed, Oct 20, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Colin Powell could prod China to talk to Taiwan

EAST ASIA TRIP The US secretary of state will visit Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing -- where he is expected to discuss concerns over US arms sales to Taipei

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

US Secretary of State Colin Powell plans to tell China that the US sees President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) Double Ten National Day offer of fresh cross-strait dialogue "as an opportunity" for a resumption of talks, the State Department said on Monday.

Due to visit Beijing next week, Powell also plans to talk about US arms sales to Taiwan and respond to China's recent strident expressions of opposition to the US$18.2 billion arms package that Washington is seeking to sell to Taipei, spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters at his regular daily press briefing.

Powell will visit Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul from Saturday through Tuesday. He will arrive in Beijing next Monday evening and leave the next day.

Referring to Chen's offer to resume talks on the basis of a 1992 meeting in Hong Kong, Boucher called it "a chance to look at what we can all do to promote the idea of dialogue across the Strait."

The Bush administration thought "there were elements in it that were constructive, and we felt that there was an opportunity here to get back to a cross-strait dialogue that should be looked at by all the parties."

Boucher said the US will encourage the Chinese "to see it that way and to look at what they can do to get back to a cross-strait dialogue."

Boucher's comments mark the third time since Chen's speech that a department spokesman has praised the speech and the offer to resume dialogue as "constructive," even after Beijing dismissed the offer as a sham.

The offer is consistent with Washington's new emphasis on promoting the resumption of cross-strait talks since Chen's re-election, and especially since his inauguration address in May.

While Powell confers with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) on a regular basis by telephone, this trip will mark the first time in more than 18 months that he has traveled to Beijing for talks.

Powell is planning to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), although Boucher said the time had not yet been confirmed. One purpose of that meeting will be to assess China's new leadership structure in the wake of former president Jiang Zemin's (江澤民) retirement as head of the military commission.

During his trip, Powell will also hold talks on North Korea and Iraq, and have a chance to meet again with Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, whom he met in Washington earlier this month. The questions of a US-Japanese effort to develop a joint missile defense shield, and the shifting US military presence in East Asia will also be discussed.

Another topic of discussion will be preparations for the APEC summit meeting in Chile next month.

When asked whether Powell expected to accomplish anything with the trip, given the nearness of the US presidential election, Boucher said that there was much to be done despite the election.

"There are many things coming up in November, December, January, not to mention next year, that we are going to be working with these countries on," he said.

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