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U.S. receives Taiwan president-elect's visit request: official

ROC Central News Agency

2008-03-26 13:43:41

    Washington, March 25 (CNA) Washington has received a request by Taiwan's president-elect, Ma Ying-jeou, to visit the United States before his May 20 inauguration, a U.S. State Department official said Tuesday.

    The official from the department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs said the U.S. government will consider Ma's request and make a decision in accordance with the country's long-standing policy toward Taiwan and its "one-China" policy as conceptualized in the three U.S.-China joint communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act.

    Ma on Monday raised the possibility of visiting the U.S. prior to being sworn in during a meeting with American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Taipei Office Director Stephen Young.

    A senior State Department official told the media Monday that the U.S. government has not changed its principles in dealing with requests by Taiwan leaders to visit the United States.

    These principles include that the visit should be private and unofficial and that such a visit would be arranged for the convenience, comfort, safety and dignity of the travelers, the official said.

    If Ma's U.S. visit is permitted, it will set a precedent that is almost certain to draw opposition from Beijing.

    Bonnie Glaser, a senior associate with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Central News Agency that the lack of a precedent and the possible protest from Beijing are not necessarily valid reasons for the United States to turn down Ma's request.

    In considering whether to accept the request, however, the Kuomintang administration and the administration of President George W. Bush should first discuss whether a visit is necessary, Glaser said. "What can be achieved through a visit to Washington that cannot be achieved through other means? The upsides and the downsides should be clearly understood and weighed, " Glaser said, noting there are many ways of engaging in dialogue.

    If the United States decided to approve the visit, "steps should be taken by both the U.S. and Taiwan to reassure Beijing so as to avoid a negative impact on future cross-Strait relations," she said.

    Meanwhile, June Teufel Dreyer, a professor of political science at the University of Miami, expressed strong support for "the idea of a pre-inauguration visit to Washington by president-elect Ma, regardless of Beijing's feelings on the matter."

    Dreyer argued that the Taiwan Relations Act gives Washington significant responsibilities for protecting Taiwan against hostile actions by China, and therefore "it is very important for Taiwan officials to be able to confer with leading U.S. decision-makers in departments or offices that are relevant to Taiwan's defense and foreign policies."

(By Chiehyu Lin, Jorge Liu and Y.F. Low)


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