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Taiwan Eyes US Policy Ahead of Bush Visit to China - 2002-01-14

As President Bush prepares to visit Beijing next month, Taiwan says he is not likely to repeat the so-called "three no's" policy regarding American support for Taiwan's international status.

Every time a U.S. president visits China or receives a senior Chinese official, Taipei expresses concern about a possible shift in American support for Taiwan.

But Taiwan's foreign minister says that Taipei now has assurances from Washington that President Bush will not repeat former President Bill Clinton's "three no's" statement. During a trip to China in 1998, Mr. Clinton publicly declared that Washington would not support Taiwan independence, not recognize "two Chinas" - China and a separate Taiwan - and not back a bid by Taiwan to join international organizations where members must be sovereign states.

Taipei is concerned about how Mr. Bush may respond to Beijing's likely request that the United States stop selling defensive weapons to Taipei. Beijing is also expected to ask the United States to explicitly affirm China's claim of sovereignty over Taiwan.

The island of more than 22 million people has been administered separately since the Chinese Communists defeated the Nationalists who fled to Taiwan in 1949.

The United States established formal diplomatic relations with China in 1979, breaking its ties with Taiwan at Beijing's request. But Washington has maintained an informal trade relationship with the island and sells Taipei military weapons to counter any threat by China to achieve reunification by military force.

Successive U.S. administrations have generally adhered to the strategy of keeping America's Taiwan policy vague, while insisting that the weapons sales help assure that Beijing and Taipei resolve their differences by peaceful means.

Mr. Clinton's "three no's" statement was viewed in Taipei as too explicit a tilt toward Beijing's claim of sovereignty over Taiwan. But the Clinton Administration insisted that it merely reiterated long-standing U.S. policy.

Local elections are scheduled later this month in Taiwan, and top officials from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party are hinting at a higher international profile for diplomatically isolated Taiwan. Nevertheless, Taipei will be watching President's Bush during his expected visit with Chinese President Jiang Zemin next month in Beijing.