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Compromise on China Issue Clears Way for Conference

September 17, 1993|JIM MANN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials said Thursday that they have worked out agreements with China and Taiwan that will clear the way for an unprecedented conference this fall between President Clinton and leaders of virtually all the other nations of the Pacific Rim.

The meeting--scheduled for Nov. 19 and 20 in Seattle--will be a milestone for U.S. Asia policy. Never before have so many presidents, prime ministers and other leaders of Asian nations gathered in the same place.

The purpose of the gathering, a U.S. official said, will be "purely economic." It is being designed to "look at what will be the challenges in front of us for the 21st Century--the priorities each of us have, domestically and for the region." The White House plans to begin mailing invitations within the next few days.

Until now, the arrangements have been held up by a dispute over who will represent China and Taiwan. Both nations are members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference, the organization sponsoring the meeting.

But China considers Taiwan a renegade province and refuses to participate in any meeting that would imply formal recognition of Taiwan as a separate nation or would signal that its Nationalist government is equal in status to Beijing.

Now, after informal discussions with Beijing and Taipei, Clinton Administration officials say that they have worked out a delicate compromise.

"We have got a deal," one Administration official said.

He said the agreement will follow "the principle that all three Chinas (the People's Republic of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong) have equal participation, but not necessarily equal representation."

China will be represented in Seattle by President Jiang Zemin, its head of state, who is also the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. Separately, President Clinton will invite Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui to send a "representative" to Seattle, and Lee will respond by sending his government's minister of economic affairs, Vincent C. Siew, as a representative of "Chinese Taipei."

The agreement will enable Taiwan to be represented by a member of its government, while permitting China to say that it is still dealing with Taiwan only as an economic entity. (Hong Kong, like Taiwan, will be represented by someone at a rank lower than its top leader, who is Gov. Chris Patten.)

The arrangement will disappoint some Taiwan officials and their supporters in Congress, who have quietly campaigned in Washington to have Taiwan represented at the landmark Seattle conference by President Lee.

"Taiwan should not be treated as a second-class citizen," Parris H. Chiang, an opposition member of Taiwan's legislature, said in an interview here this week. "For Taiwan's president or premier to be excluded (from the conference) will be seen as a snub."

California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) argued at a recent House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that Lee should be invited to Seattle because of Taiwan's importance to the Pacific Rim.

Clinton first proposed a gathering of the leaders of Asian nations during his trip to Tokyo last July. At the time, the President carefully used the words "informal leadership conference," rather than "summit," because Administration officials realized that the Beijing government would not take part in any summit session with Taiwan leaders.

The United States formally recognized the Communist regime in Beijing in 1979 as the government of China and, at the same time, broke off diplomatic relations with the Nationalist government in Taipei. Since then, the United States has maintained only informal ties with Taiwan.

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