Clinton meets Taiwan prez Chen despite China’s opposition

Agence France Presse

Taipei, February 27:

Former US president Bill Clinton arrived in Taiwan this evening and met the island’s pro-independence President Chen Shui-bian despite opposition from China.

Clinton had a private dinner with Chen after making a speech to about 2,000 people packing Taipei’s International Convention Center.

Clinton called for closer cooperation between people in an increasingly inter-dependent world. “Whether in our backyard, in Taiwan, China...we cannot escape each other,” he said.

The former US leader was earlier met at Taipei’s Sungshan airport by Foreign Minister Chen Tan-sun. Local newspapers said the government-financed Taiwan Foundation for Democracy was to pay him 250,000 US dollars for his lecture.

The visit, coming on the heels of Clinton’s trip to the mainland to promote AIDS awareness, irritated China. “As a former US president he should know China’s solemn position on the Taiwan question,” foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan said on Thursday. “He should know how to act to honour a series of promises that the past US governments, including his, made to the Chinese government on the Taiwan question.”

These include abiding by the one-China policy and by the three joint communiques which form the basis of China-US relations, and opposing Taiwan’s independence, Kong said. Clinton in 1996 ordered two aircraft carrier battle groups to waters near Taiwan after China lobbed ballistic missiles into shipping lanes off the island. He denied any policy shift on Taiwan with his visit.

“The United States and I have not changed our positions...I hope that China and Taiwan would not think that my position or the US’s would change because of this trip,” he said in an interview today in Tokyo with a Hong Kong newspaper group. “I sincerely stand by the one-China policy ... I sincerely hope to see peace in the Taiwan Strait. At the same time I urge them both to solve their disputes peacefully.”

Such views would be passed on to Chen during his visit to the island, during which he would also praise Taiwan’s economic achievements, the report said.

Clinton will meet opposition leader Lien Chan tomorrow and sign copies of his autobiography “My Life” at Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building, before ending his 27-hour visit.