Tue, Dec 23, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Defense official wraps up visit to Washington


Vice Minister of National Defense Lin Chong-pin (林中斌) left Wash-ington for home on Sunday after wrapping up a visit to the US capital.

Unlike a similar visit six months ago, Lin did not meet with US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz because he was on vacation in California.

A US official denied that bilateral military exchanges have been hindered by disputes over Taiwan's plan to hold a "defensive referendum" on the day of the presidential election on March 20. The referendum seeks to give the people of Taiwan a venue to voice their opposition to the deployment by China of nearly 500 ballistic missiles targeting locations in Taiwan.

The official cited the convening of a seminar on the Taiwan Strait situation in Hawaii on Dec. 15 to back his claim that Taiwan-US military exchanges have not been affected by the referendum dispute.

Previous media reports said the US had canceled the seminar to express its displeasure at Taiwan's referendum plan. Some reports mistakenly described the seminar as a Taiwan-US joint computer war simulation and alleged that Lin had been barred from attending because of the referendum issue.

All those reports were untrue, the US official said, adding that the seminar was held as originally scheduled and that Lin was not supposed to take part in the seminar from the very beginning.

An American China hand said Taiwan-US military exchanges are not expected to be adversely affected by political relations between the two countries at least for the time being. It is not easy to suddenly put the brakes on the increasingly closer Taiwan-US military cooperation, the expert noted.

Some US officials in charge of relevant affairs said bilateral military cooperation not only benefits Taiwan's national defense but also US interests.

However, some other US aca-demics pointed out that military cooperation could be the first target if the Bush administration intends to cool relations with Taiwan.

During his visit, Lin headed a delegation of military officials to attend a meeting on military exchanges. Lin briefed US officials on national defense reforms, military restructuring and progress in its arms procurement plans.

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