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Taiwan slams China for blocking Chen's visit

Written by: Staff

TAIPEI, May 2: Taiwan accused China today of trying to block an overseas visit by President Chen Shui-bian.

Chen was due to leave for Paraguay and Costa Rica on Wednesday with stopovers in the US, but Washington has yet to tell Taiwan where his plane can land.

''This had not happened before. We are encountering unprecedented difficulty because of China's behind-the-scenes interference,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Michel Lu said.

Washington, Taipei's most important ally and arms supplier, allows Taiwan leaders to enter the United States in transit, but refuses official visits so as not to offend China.

Chen had hoped to stop in New York to score diplomatic points after Chinese President Hu Jintao's US trip in April, local media said.

''Our itineraries in Paraguay and Costa Rica will not be affected, but we do not rule out delaying the departure if negotiations continue,'' Foreign Minister James Huang told reporters.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang warned Washington last week against Chen's possible transit in New York and reminded Washington to honour its commitment to uphold the ''one China'' principle.

Since the Chinese Nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war on mainland China, Beijing has tried to push Taiwan into diplomatic isolation and only 26 states -- mostly small, poor countries -- recognise Taipei.

Chen was allowed to stop in New York to receive a human rights award in 2003, a move hailed as a breakthrough. Chen has said he hopes to make a symbolically charged visit to the US capital during his second term, which ends in 2008.

Chen made surprise stopovers in the United Arab Emirates and Fiji during visits to the island's diplomatic allies last year.


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