Tue, Apr 13, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Taipei monitoring Cheney trip

CHINA VISIT Taiwan, US arms sales and North Korea's nuclear weapons program are expected to top the US vice-president's agenda in his meetings with Beijing's leaders

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Government officials here have mixed views about whether China would ask US Vice President Dick Cheney for promises on Taiwan as he begins a three-day visit to Beijing and Shanghai today.

Cheney's visit would be the highest-level official exchange between China and the US since President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) won re-election.

Taiwan, human rights, trade and North Korea are expected to top Cheney's agenda in Beijing. He is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).

US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who earlier this month defended the US' sale of advanced radar systems to Taiwan, is among the officials in Cheney's entourage. Beijing says Washington is breaking its promises by selling high-tech weapons to Taiwan.

Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Alexander Huang (黃介正) said Wolfowitz is visiting China for several reasons, but explaining the US arms sales to Taipei would not be part of his mission.

Two US China experts, David Lampton and Kenneth Lieberthal, in their article "Heading Off the Next War" published in the Washington Post yesterday said Cheney is likely to reiterate the traditional American stance on cross-strait relations.

"It appears he will follow the traditional American path of recommending cross-strait dialogue and warning of severe consequences should military conflict flare," the article said.

Cheney will also assure Beijing that Washington opposes unilateral independence for Taiwan, according to the article.

"While voicing these essential elements of a prudent message, the vice president also should signal both Beijing and Taipei that America is prepared for new thinking in the search for peace and growth in the region," the article said.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Chung-hsin (陳忠信), head of the DPP's mainland affairs department, said he believed North Korea, not Taiwan, would be the focus of Cheney's trip.

The way the China-Taiwan-US trilateral relations, he said, have operated remains basically unchanged since before the election.

Although China expected more promises from the US, Cheney would stick to Washington's "one China" policy by reiterating the three communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act, the lawmaker said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chang Rong-kung (張榮恭) believes Beijing may demand stronger pledges on Taiwan from the US after hosting the second round of six-way talks on North Korea.

However, Chang said Beijing has to face the fact that the Taiwan issue has been internationalized.

China's respect for Taiwanese people's mainstream opinion will play a critical part in seeking peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, Chang said.

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