Fri, Oct 21, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Lee warns US of Chinese assault

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON , WITH AFP

Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) warned senior US congressional leaders that a Chinese military attack on Taiwan could take place within "a couple of years," congressional sources told the Taipei Times.

Lee made his comments in a meeting with the top two congressmen on the House International Relations Committee, chairman and Republican Representative Henry Hyde, and Democratic Representative Tom Lantos, during a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the sources said.

Lee's comments were part of a lengthy presentation to the two leaders outlining his views on the strategic challenges that are facing Taiwan, and the need for the US to recommit itself to maintaining Taiwan's security, two major themes of his four-day visit to Washington which began on Monday.

Lee told Hyde and Lantos, both strong supporters of Taiwan, that he was concerned about the threat of a Chinese attack in the medium term.

It was not immediately clear how the two congressmen reacted to his warning.

While Hyde mainly listened to the presentation, Lantos expressed great concern over the failure of the pan-blue-camp dominated legislature to approve funding for the package of weaponry that the Bush administration offered to Taiwan in 2001, the bulk of which is contained in a special budget that the pan-blues have held up in the legislature's Procedure Committee.

Lee's earlier comment that the US sale to Taiwan of long-range offensive missiles was more important than the special budget items of diesel submarines and PC-3 anti-submarine reconnaissance aircraft did not come up in Lee's talk with the congressmen, a source said.

Lee had made that statement in an interview with the editorial staff of the Washington Post, which was reported in the paper's Wednesday edition.

While much of Lee's message centered around his strong conviction that Taiwan needs and deserves full and internationally recognized independence, Lantos demurred, according to a source.

The Hyde-Lantos meeting was one of a series of meetings Lee held during the day with key members of Congress, including the House and Senate Taiwan caucuses, during Lee's first visit to Washington since becoming president in 1988.

It was a proud day for Lee as he did the rounds in the Capitol, culminating with a reception hosted by the two caucuses in a room in the Capitol, at which 22 members of Congress attended to pay tribute to Lee, the democracy he had such a big hand in creating, and close US-Taiwan ties.

It also came a day after no fewer than four congressmen made statements on the floor of the House praising and welcoming Lee to the capital.

In those statements and in congratulatory comments at the reception, member after member condemned the fact that Lee could not come to Washington when he was president, and expressed the conviction that Chen should be allowed into Washington now.

"I hope that soon all restrictions on high-level visits from Taiwan will be lifted, including the president ... so that a balanced understanding of both sides of the Taiwan Strait will be directly available to Congress, the administration and the American public," Democratic Representative Edolphus Towns said.

The US lawmakers called China's leaders "tyrants" as they welcomed Lee to Congress as the "founding father of democracy" and praised him for his unrelenting stance toward Beijing.

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