Thu, Mar 07, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Lee Teng-hui to make US visit in May

VENTURE ABROAD The former president is expected to address the National Press Club in Washington as well as play a round of golf with former US president George Bush

By Tzou Jiing-wen and Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTERS , WITH AGENCIES

Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) is to depart for the US in late May for a 10-day trip during which he is expected to meet former US president George Bush, sources said yesterday.

Invited by 10 Taiwanese overseas societies, Lee's May trip will be his second to the US since he left office two years ago.

According to a tentative itinerary, Lee is to travel to Washington to deliver a speech at the National Press Club and is to play a round of golf with former US president Bush, sources said.

Lee is also to attend the annual meeting of the Association of Taiwanese Residents in the US (全美台灣同鄉會) to accept its "Mr. Democracy" Award, sources said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) confirmed in the Legislative Yuan yesterday afternoon that Lee was to visit the US in May.

Chien's confirmation came in relation to questions from the Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee in the legislature.

The foreign minister said he was not in complete possession of Lee's entire itinerary, but stressed that the foreign ministry would offer Lee, as a former head of state, assistance if needed.

Chien also said "there should not be any problem" with regard to Lee's visit.

Meanwhile, Chien denied a wire report on Tuesday which said Taiwan intended to sell 24 F5-E fighter jets to the Philippines in exchange for Manila's agreement to allow President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to visit the Philippines.

"President Chen had no plan to visit the Philippines," Chien said. "As for the report, the foreign ministry had no idea at all," Chien said in the morning at the legislative committee.

When asked whether the Ministry of National Defense or the National Security Council has been in charge of the reported deal between Taipei and Manila, Chien said, "it doesn't seem so."

According to the AFP report from Manila on Tuesday, Chien's counterpart in Manila Teofisto Guingona said his country is negotiating with Taiwan over the deal to strengthen its ill-equipped air force.

Guingona said the talks had been kept secret "for quite some time," adding it was a commercial transaction that should not upset China.

To prevent a potential diplomatic row, Guingona said the fighter jets would be sold first to a "private firm" which would in turn sell them to the Philippine Air Force.

But the sale depended on the approval of the US government, which licensed Taiwan the technology to make the single-seater F-5Es in the 1970s, officials in Manila said.

A high-ranking diplomatic source in Manila said Taiwan had agreed to sell the fighter jets at a bargain price to Manila on condition that President Chen were allowed to visit the Philippines.

Chien said Chen's plan to embark on his third overseas trip since his inauguration in May 2000, has yet to be mapped out.

He also denied that Chen would begin state visits to Taiwan's diplomatic allies in May.

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