The State Department says Taiwan's vice president, Annette Lu, will transit through the United States later this week on a trip to Central America. The trip is described as private but she will meet some members of the U.S. Congress.

Though the United States has not had diplomatic relations with Taiwan since 1979, it has allowed leaders of the island's government to make transit stops as a courtesy and the State Department says Ms. Lu's trip later this week will be no exception.

The Taiwanese vice president, sworn in for another four year term along with President Chen Shui-Bian last week, will arrive in Las Vegas Friday and spend a few days there before flying on to Central America. Her return plans call for a similar stopover in San Francisco starting June 9 before a return flight to Taipei.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Ms. Lu's plans were approved on the same basis as similar transits, for reasons of the safety, comfort and convenience of the traveler. He said she would be greeted by staff members of the nominally-private institute that handles U.S. affairs in Taiwan and meet with some members of Congress. But he said the understanding is she will have no public events or statements.

"Our understanding is that she has no media or public activities, that this is a private stopover for the purposes of transit, and we would expect that that's the way it will be carried out," said Mr. Boucher.

President Chen transited through the United States last October enroute to attend ceremonies on the 100th anniversary of Panama's independence.

While in Panama, he shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with Secretary of State Colin Powell in what is believed to have been the highest-level contact since the 1979 switch of U.S. recognition from Taiwan to Beijing.

The Bush administration has been leery of recent political moves by Mr. Chen seeming to advocate independence for the island, and it welcomed promises in his May 20 inaugural address not to take steps that would unilaterally change the status quo with China.