Tue, Jan 09, 2007 - Page 3 News List

China slams US for allowing California stopover for Chen

TRUE TO FORM Beijing again charged that the real aim of Chen Shui-bian's transit stop in the US was to divide China and damage Sino-US ties

AGENCIES , TAIPEI AND BEIJING

China accused President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of trying to damage Sino-US ties with a stopover in California on the way to Central America yesterday and criticized Washington for authorizing the brief visit.

Chen left for Nicaragua yesterday to attend the swearing-in ceremony of president-elect Daniel Ortega, stopping en route in San Francisco.

Chen was scheduled to meet privately in San Francisco with Raymond Burghardt, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan.

Chen was to spend the night in San Francisco before flying on to Nicaragua today for Ortega's inauguration.

China slammed the stopover.

"The Chinese side opposes the United States and the Taiwan [sic] authorities having any form of official dealings," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) said in a statement on the ministry's Web site.

"We express serious concern about related reports," Liu said, referring to Chen's California visit. "We have made serious representations to the US side."

"What should be pointed out is that the real aim of Chen Shui-bian's `transit stop' in the United States is to carry out activities whose purpose is to split China and damage Sino-US relations," Liu added.

Chen will also make a refueling stop in Los Angeles on Friday on his way back to Taiwan.

Chen last year rebuffed the US' offer for stopovers in Alaska or Hawaii on the way to Latin America, after he was barred from high-profile transits in New York or San Francisco.

Instead, he stopped in Abu Dhabi and Amsterdam en route to Latin America, and in the Dominican Republic and Libya on the way home, triggering criticism from the opposition that he had jeopardized ties with the US.

However, Chen landed for several hours in the US territory of Guam last September during a South Pacific tour.

A US official said Chen would simply "transit" this time.

"We understand President Chen's activities will be private and unofficial, consistent with the purposes of a transit," an AIT spokesman said yesterday, referring to the San Francisco and Los Angeles stopovers.

Nicaragua is one of Taiwan's 24 diplomatic allies. However, Ortega is a former pro-communist leader who broke with Taiwan and switched allegiance to China when he served as Nicaragua's president in the 1980s, leading some in Taiwan to fear he could do the same thing again when he retakes office.

In his campaign for the November elections, Ortega vowed to recognize Beijing if elected and sever ties with Taiwan. But Chen's visit comes amid speculation that Nicaragua may maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan in return for lucrative aid compensation.

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