Mon, May 24, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Chen expresses wish to make trip to Capitol Hill

OVERSEAS JOURNEY The president said he would like to visit Washington in his second term, but China-watchers warn the move would anger Beijing

REUTERS , TAIPEI

President Chen Shui-bian and Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte Frutos wave to the public as they visit Fort Provintia in Tainan City yesterday. Chen said yesterday he would like to visit Washington in his second term.

PHOTO: CNA

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) hopes to visit Washington during his second four-year term, a Presidential Office statement said yesterday.

"I sincerely hope I can have the opportunity to visit Washington over the next four years ... and personally witness the sincere friendship between the peoples of Taiwan and the United States," the statement quoted Chen as telling a group of pro-independence Taiwanese-American professors in Taipei late on Saturday.

When Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) visited New York in 1995, becoming the first Taiwan president to set foot on US soil in almost two decades, China menaced Taiwan with months of war games and missile tests.

George Tsai (蔡瑋), a China-watcher at National Chengchi University, said a visit by Chen to Washington would antagonize Beijing.

"The United States is going to be very cautious in case they send the wrong signal to mainland China," Tsai said.

The Presidential Office and the American Institute in Taiwan could not be reached for comment.

In his inauguration speech last Thursday, Chen did not repeat plans to hold a referendum on a new constitution, assuaging key ally Washington. But Beijing has lingering doubts about his pro-independence dreams.

"Tension and uncertainties between the two sides will remain in the next four years. We should not be too hopeful about future ties," said Chang Hsin-yi (張新儀), an assistant professor in the Department of International Studies at Nanhua University.

"Misjudgment and misunderstanding could easily lead to conflict," Chang added.

A resumption of dialogue, frozen by Beijing since 1999 due to a dispute over Taiwan's political status, appears unlikely.

"Deep distrust between the both sides make any kind of breakthrough impossible. The lack of trust means the chance of opening political dialogue is next to impossible," said Andy Chang (張五岳), a professor at the Institute of China Studies of Tamkang University.

Last week, the US House of Representatives passed 391-34 a resolution that included an amendment by Jim Ryun, a Republican from Kansas, initiating senior military officer education exchanges with Taiwan, according to the congressman's Web site.

The exchanges would focus on anti-submarine warfare, missile defense and C4ISR -- command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance -- which are fields identified by the US Department of Defense where Taiwan is in most need of assistance.

"This amendment will help make Taiwan more defensively sufficient, while at the same time improving its ability to fight alongside the United States in a crisis if necessary," Ryun said.

Last week, White House spokesman Scott McClellan welcomed Chen's inaugural speech as "responsible and constructive" for avoiding a showdown with China over Taiwan's political status.

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