The US administration on Monday sidestepped questions about whether president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would be permitted to visit Washington before his inauguration in May, while some sources said that Ma may already have sparked a diplomatic incident by expressing his wish to visit Washington before informing the US or the Ministry of Foreign affairs beforehand.
"There are no plans for a visit," the office of the spokesman of the US National Security Council, an arm of the White House, told reporters on Monday.
Earlier, both White House spokesman Dana Perino and US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack were asked about a possible Ma visit. Both said they had no information about it. Later, a NSC spokesman said that no visit had been planned.
Taiwan's top representative in Washington, Joseph Wu (
"If the request is made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or if Mr Ma has approached the ministry to make the request of the US side, TECRO [the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, which Wu heads] will work on it. But so far, we have not received any instructions from Taipei," Wu told the Taipei Times in an interview.
Wu said he had not consulted US officials about the visit, but was confident that the State Department had not received an official request.
Some sources said Ma's expression of interest in visiting Washington may already have violated important diplomatic niceties by not consulting the ministry or making a formal request.
They said that China would likely strongly oppose such a visit, creating a foreign policy dilemma for the Bush administration, which has sought rapprochement with China.
Even after leaving office, former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) trips to Japan and the US continued to draw Beijing's ire, sources said.
A visit by Ma to coordinate US-Taiwan relations, even ahead of his inauguration, would elicit a similar response from Beijing, sources in Washington said.
Nevertheless, some Taiwan supporters in the US felt that a Ma visit would be a good thing, allowing for a face-to-face meeting to iron out problems that could arise during his term.
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