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2004-06-02 19:39:23

    Taipei, June 1 (CNA) The Ministry of National Defense (MND) has not been informed of a possible visit to Taiwan in July by Brigadier General John Allen, a close aide to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a spokesman said Wednesday.

    The spokesman was responding to media reports that Allen, the Asia-Pacific affairs chief at Rumsfeld's office, is scheduled to visit Taiwan next month for bilateral defense cooperation discussions. If Allen's travel plan is realized, it will mark the first time in more than two decades that an active service U.S. general has visited Taiwan.

    After the United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, it has prohibited its generals in active service from visiting Taiwan. But the U.S. Senate passed a resolution recently to allow general-ranking military officers to visit Taiwan.

    Commenting on the reports, the MND spokesman said the ministry has not yet received any information about Allen's travel plan. Moreover, he said, the MND has asked the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto U.S. embassy here, about the reported plan. The AIT was quoted as saying it has not received any information about the plan. "Judging from this, we think that the visit plan has not matured at the moment," the spokesman said.

    Nevertheless, he said, the MND welcomes any event that can help boost military exchanges and interactions between Taiwan and the United States.

    If Allen indeed visits Taiwan, the spokesman said, it will mark a major breakthrough in Taiwan-U.S. military exchanges.

    Military sources said Kurt Campbell, a deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asian affairs during the Clinton administration, took the initiative to promote visits by high-ranking military officers. Over the past years, the exchanges remained unilateral. For instance, Taiwan has on several occasions sent its chief of the general staff to visit the United States. But so far, the U.S. government has only allowed its colonels to visit Taiwan. Allen once visited Taiwan late last year. At that time, he was a colonel.

(By Sofia Wu)


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