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US, Taiwan Officials to Participate in Business Conference - 2002-03-11


The private U.S. Taiwan Business Council says one of the keynote speakers at a special defense industry meeting it is sponsoring this week will be Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Taiwan's Defense Minister will also be there.

The Pentagon says some defense department personnel will attend the conference in Florida on Monday and Tuesday in an unofficial capacity.

But a spokesman will not confirm Mr. Wolfowitz's participation in the event, which is also being attended by Taiwan's Defense Minister Tang Yiau-Ming.

The Taiwanese official's presence has already raised China's anger, with a foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing warning that the U.S. decision to let him into the country could strain Sino-American ties.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province and strongly opposes official exchanges between Taipei and other countries.

But the United States, while recognizing Beijing as China's sole government, continues to maintain close ties with Taiwan. It is also obligated under law to provide Taiwan with weapons for self-defense.

U.S. officials are currently working on details of a proposed new arms sale package for Taiwan that could include submarines. Pentagon officials say in that connection, there is a need for periodic contact with Taiwanese authorities.

The St. Petersburg, Florida U.S. Taiwan Business Council summit is being sponsored by a variety of firms with major defense interests, including Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Bell Helicopters and Lockheed-Martin.

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