Tue, Jan 04, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Former AIT head Therese Shaheen arrives tomorrow

By Mac William Bishop  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairwoman Therese Shaheen will arrive in Taipei tomorrow for a visit with senior government officials, sources said yesterday.

Shaheen, who will be visiting in her capacity as a private citizen, was often at odds with the Bush administration and senior AIT officials in Taipei over her perceived support for Taiwan, according to a US government source.

Shaheen is now president and chief operating officer of a consulting firm, US-Asia Commercial Development Corp. According to the firm's Web site, the firm works "mainly in telecommunications and information technology, aerospace, power and real estate development areas."

Sources from across the political spectrum agree that, although Shaheen no longer holds any official position in the US government, she still has a close relationship with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Shaheen is still "very much politically active with Taiwan," a local source with close ties to the US government said.

The visit -- Shaheen's second trip to Taiwan since she resigned as AIT chairwoman last year -- comes amid a period of heightened tensions in Taiwan-US ties.

Analysts have interpreted recent remarks by US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage as signaling a shift in US policy, despite official denials.

In October, Powell told a Hong Kong TV station that "[Taiwan] does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation," and later told CNN that he was opposed to any "unilateral action that would prejudice an eventual outcome, a reunification that all parties are seeking."

The State Department later said that Powell's comments were not indicative of a change in its "one China" policy.

However, some cross-strait affairs analysts took exception with remarks delivered by Armitage in an interview with the PBS television network on Dec. 20, when he described Taiwan as "probably the biggest landmine" in US-China relations.

Shaheen's resignation as AIT chairwoman on April 7 last year was a direct result of conflict with Bush administration officials over US-Taiwan policy, the US government source said. Shaheen sent a letter to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) congratulating him on winning the March 20 presidential election. Her actions were "characteristic of her exceeding her instructions," a US official told the Taipei Times at the time.

In the past, Shaheen has received flak from pan-blue-camp lawmakers, who have claimed she made use of her position to facilitate US arms sales to Taiwan.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Huang Teh-fu (黃德福) said in June that Shaheen was forced to step down because she brokered arms deals with Taiwan.

The US government source, however, disagreed with the allegations, saying Shaheen "was known to be a critic of Taiwan's acquisition of diesel-electric submarines."

DPP legislators have also called such claims "groundless."

The Bush administration is yet to appoint a permanent replacement for Shaheen as AIT chairperson in Washington.

As Taiwan does not have formal relations with the US, the AIT in Washington is a semi-official organization authorized under the Taiwan Relations Act to coordinate ties with Taiwan.

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