Thu, Feb 22, 2007 - Page 1 News List

State Department criticized over its policy on Taiwan

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

As the chorus of criticism of the US State Department's handling of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) name-change initiative grows among Taiwan's supporters in Washington, Therese Shaheen, former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairwoman and US Representative Tom Tancredo have become the latest to slam the department for its attitudes toward Taiwan.

Shaheen's comments, made in an interview with the Taipei Times, mark the first time in the three years since she was dismissed from the AIT post for her strong pro-Taiwan views that she has broken her silence to criticize what she sees as the department's over-sensitivities toward China's complaints about political developments in Taiwan.

For Tancredo, in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday, the department's tough reaction to the name-change move was "puzzling" in contrast to the department's mild reaction to China's passage of its "Anti-Secession" Law in 2005.

Their reactions come just days after former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage publicly criticized the department for its over-reaction on Friday.

"Taiwan ... is one of the freest democracies in Asia," Shaheen said. "From the greatest democracy in the world [the US], the maturing democracy in Taiwan deserves respect."

Claiming that the department's policy and reactions to Taiwan stem from a concern over China's feelings, she said: "As the only superpower, we should not be relating to Taiwan in a reactive way. The US needs to act strategically toward Taiwan."

She also faulted the department for implicitly accusing Chen of violating his "four noes" pledge in his 2000 inaugural address by ordering the name changes.

Tancredo said that for the department "to equate the renaming of a gas station with a change in Taiwan's international status is, to say the least, rather puzzling," in reference to changing the name of the Chinese Petroleum Corp to CPC Corp, Taiwan.

"It is rather difficult to understand how a decision about what the name of a local business might be in Taiwan is any of the State Department's concern," Tancredo said. "It seems to me that Taiwan's elected leaders and investors are perfectly capable of determining what the name of a particular shipbuilding company ought to be."

His letter recalled the muted response by the department to the "Anti-Secession" Law. At the time, then state department spokesman Richard Boucher urged both sides to seek dialogue, while White House spokesman Scott McClellan characterized the law only as "unhelpful," Tancredo wrote.

In fact, the law "was intended to create a legal framework for China to initiate military action against Taiwan. The `law' represents a clear-cut, belligerent and dangerous step toward a military attack of Taiwan," he said.

On Feb. 9 the State Department said that it opposed moves by Taiwan "that would appear to change Taiwan's status unilaterally or move toward independence. The United States does not, for instance, support changes in terminology for entities administered by the Taiwan authorities."

Critics believe the department's response is linked to the US need for Chinese cooperation in the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program.

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