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China not in on decision on Taiwan's visa-waiver status: U.S. official

ROC Central News Agency

2012/10/03 17:46:18

Washington, Oct. 2 (CNA) The United States did not consult with China prior to deciding to grant eligible Taiwanese passport holders visa-free status, a senior U.S. State Department official said Tuesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. did not feel it had to discuss its intentions to include Taiwan in its Visa Waiver Program (VWP) with Chinese authorities.

Beijing was fully aware of the development of the case, which underwent a lengthy screening process before coming to a conclusion, the official said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Taiwan's candidacy for the program in December 2011 after years of effort by Taiwan's government to meet the necessary requirements.

Taiwan's VWP candidacy was prominently reported by Taiwan's news media when it was announced, the official said, and it also received extensive media coverage when a delegation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security visited Taiwan in March to further evaluate Taiwan's qualifications.

As to concerns that Taiwan's VWP inclusion, which grants Taiwanese citizens the same treatment as citizens from the 36 other countries included in the program, might involve legal issues or might imply changes in the U.S. perception of Taiwan's status, the official said such speculation was unfounded.

Taiwan's admission to the visa-waiver program does not conflict with Washington's commitment to develop healthy non-official relations with Taiwan, and it will not change Taiwan's status, according to the official.

The move was basically a way for the U.S. to strengthen relations with Taiwan, especially in terms of civilian exchanges and trade and economic cooperation, the official said.

Meanwhile, Department of Homeland Security officials said the United States enacted the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979 to regulate its unofficial engagements with Taiwan.

The TRA stipulates that all U.S. laws and regulations that apply to foreign countries are applicable to Taiwan, the officials said, and it was on that basis that the State Department decided to admit Taiwan into the VWP.

Under the program, which takes effect Nov. 1, eligible Taiwanese passport holders will be permitted to enter the United States for up to 90 days without a visa, though they will still be required to apply online for an electronic travel authorization and pay a US$14 fee.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said earlier in the day that around a quarter of a million Taiwanese passport holders entered the United States last year, and she expected the number to increase after the program goes into effect.

Taiwan is the only non-diplomatic ally to obtain visa-free status from the United States. and the seventh from the Asia Pacific region, after Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Brunei and South Korea.

(By Tony Liao and Sofia Wu)

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