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Taiwan Keeps Wary Eye on US-Sino Summit - 2002-10-25

Taiwan officials are keeping a wary eye on the Texas summit meeting between Chinese President Jiang Zemin and President Bush. Some experts are concerned that China may persuade the United States to reduce its support for Taipei.

The head of the Taiwan Think Tank, in Taipei, Chen Po-Chih said Beijing's diplomats and leaders are skilled at getting what they want in international meetings. And at Friday's meeting at Mr. Bush's Texas ranch, Chinese President Jiang Zemin may want assurances the United States will temper its relationship with Taiwan. "We are afraid they use this skill again and the U.S. government may promise something they regard as not harmful to Taiwan, but later on it becomes harmful," he said.

Taiwan and mainland China split politically in 1949 when Communists defeated Nationalist forces, which set up a rival government on the island. China says Taiwan is a rebellious province that should be returned to central government control by force if necessary. The United States pledges to defend the capitalist, democratic island.

Mr. Bush has been a strong supporter of Taiwan, and is offering to sell the island the biggest store of advanced weapons in a decade. China wants an end to American arms shipments to Taiwan and reassurances that the relationship between Taiwan and Washington will not get any closer.

Relations between Washington and Beijing now are warming, as the two governments cooperate in the war on terrorism.

That has some analysts in Taiwan concerned that Mr. Bush might back away from Taipei in return for China's continued support for the war on terrorism. In addition, the United States wants China's help in passing a United Nations resolution aimed at eliminating Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. Beijing has the power to veto the resolution, and so far, has not said if will support it.

However, Chen Ming-Tong of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, said he trusts President Bush not to trade away the island's interests. "This [island] is not a bargaining chip for the United States," he said.

In general, a Taiwan government spokeswoman says, the Texas summit is not expected to lead to any immediate changes in U.S. policy toward the island.