The Bush administration is furious over Chinese assertions that Taiwan's delegation was not invited to the official ceremonies marking the second inauguration of President George W. Bush, and has pointedly refuted what it considers to be Beijing's deliberate misrepresentation of Washington's private statements to it on the matter.
Taiwan's delegation, headed by Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), was clearly invited by the inauguration committee to this week's gala inauguration events, a senior administration official told the Taipei Times, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"The Taiwan people are represented in the same manner as they were in the 2001 inauguration, and the administration is very pleased that the people of Taiwan are represented in a celebration of democracy," the official said.
"We were informed that the delegation would come and that Dr. Lee would lead it, and we welcome that," the official said.
"We look forward to the opportunity to interact," with Lee and the delegation, the official added.
The official accused Beijing of trying to create the false impression that Taiwan's status was being downgraded by the Bush administration.
"It's actually quite the contrary," he said.
The administration took umbrage at a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry that Beijing "was clearly told that the US did not invite or recognize the so-called envoy delegation sent by Taiwan."
China "has expressed concerns over this to the US," the statement added.
What actually transpired in closed-door meetings after the Chinese embassy complained about the Taiwanese delegation to the State Department, was that the US side said that "technically" no government has been invited, government sources say.
Only the Washington diplomatic corps was invited.
Those diplomats, of course, could invite anybody they wanted to join them.
The Chinese distorted this response to mean that Taiwan was not represented, and said as much in its public statement, US officials told the Taipei Times.
In response to the statement from China's ministry, a senior US official said that, "Dr Lee is a world-renowned scientist and has represented the people of Taiwan at four APEC summits, and is well know in the United States. We were well aware that he was coming, and welcome his visit."
"It is important for people to understand that this is at the same level as in the past," the official reiterated.
The US official also disclosed that the Taiwanese delegation, whose leading official is Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), will "have an opportunity for unofficial discussions on matters of mutual concern with relevant officials and members of Congress."
In the past, the US has refused to acknowledge the existence of such talks.
The reference to 2001 is significant in that Bush came into office as an unabashed supporter of Taiwan, against China, which was called a "competitor," in his election campaign. That policy was reinforced in April 2001, when Bush told a television interviewer that his administration would do "whatever it took" to help defend Taiwan, and agreed to an unprecedented multi-billion dollar arms package.
But by late 2003 that policy had undergone a dramatic about-face, when Bush publicly issued a personal slap at President Chen Shui-bian's (