Wed, May 03, 2006 - Page 3 News List

US decides on transit plan: source

BUSH APPROVAL Chen Shui-bian will not be allowed to land in the continental US nor stay overnight, officials said, adding that the US president had made the decision

By Charles Snyder and Nadia Tsao  /  STAFF REPORTERS IN WASHINGTON

A US source said yesterday that US President George W. Bush will allow President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to transit through the US on his way to and from Latin America. Bush authorized Chen to stop in Honolulu, Hawaii, on his way to Latin America, and in Anchorage, Alaska, on his return flight.

However, Chen is only allowed to rest and refuel, and is not permitted to stay overnight in either city. The decision, which was proposed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was made by Bush himself, US and Taiwanese diplomatic sources said.

Chen is scheduled to depart Taipei today for Paraguay. He will later visit Costa Rica for the inauguration of president-elect Oscar Arias before returning to Taipei May 11.

The Chen administration is also understood to be shocked and displeased with Bush's reponse to its request, and has called for more negotiations on the matter.

The US source said that the US Department of State and National Security Council presented Bush with a number of recommendations, and that the stopover itinerary that Bush ultimately decided on was the simplest among them.

Meanwhile, a state department official confirmed that the US would allow Chen to make transit stops, but would not provide specifics.

Close relations

"In keeping with our close and cooperative informal relations with Taiwan and our intent to work productively with President Chen Shui-bian in the years ahead, the United States is prepared to facilitate transits for Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian on his way to and from Paraguay and Costa Rica," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

He said that the request was approved on the basis of the safety, comfort and convenience of Chen, "while respecting the dignity of the traveler."

US transit stops made by Chen on previous trips:

1. August, 2000

Outbound: Los Angeles

2. May, 2001

Outbound: New York

Homeward: Houston

3. June, 2002

Visit to African allies, no US transit stop

4. October, 2003

Outbound: New York

Homeward: Anchorage

5. August, 2004

Outbound: Hawaii

Homeward: Seattle

6. January, 2005

Homeward: Guam

7. April, 2005

Visit to the Vatican to attend Pope John II's funeral, no US transit stop

8. May, 2005

Outbound: Guam (for refueling)

Homeward: Guam

9. September, 2005

Outbound: Hawaii

Homeward: San Francisco


Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister James Huang (黃志芳) yesterday ascribed the US' slowness in responding to Taiwan's request for Chen's stop-overs to Washington's preoccupation with Iran's nuclear program, with which the US needs China's support for a hardline approach towards Iran.

Huang said the procrastination was also due to the recent visit to the US by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).

Taiwan filed the stopover requests with US officials April 21.

"The US-Taiwan negotiations over the transit stops were greatly affected by Hu's visit to the US, which had squeezed out the working time for both Taiwan and the US authorities over the matter," Huang said.

Chen had reportedly wanted to stop in New York City on his return trip next week.

Chen has not visited the East Coast of the US since September 2003, when he traveled to New York to receive a human rights award and made several public statements despite the vehement objections of China.

During that trip, his activities reportedly annoyed the Bush administration, which was then trying to improve relations with Beijing, after the then-chairwoman of the American Institute in Taiwan, Therese Shaheen, declared that Bush was "the guardian angel" of Chen's trip.

Restricted

In his first -- and only other -- trip to New York as president in 2001, Chen was more restricted, not being allowed to make any public statements, although he did give a speech to a large group of congress members, who chartered a military flight to travel from Washington to have dinner with him.

Since those two New York stopovers, Chen has been limited to West Coast and Southwest cities, including Houston, the home of the then-House majority leader Tom DeLay, a prominent supporter of Taiwan.

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