GUAM ‘OFFICIAL VISIT’ TO TAIWAN CONTROVERSIAL

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GUAM ‘OFFICIAL VISIT’ TO TAIWAN CONTROVERSIAL Possible irritant to Beijing

By Connor Murphy

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 13, 2009) - Conducting an "official state visit" to Taiwan this week could put Guam in the middle of a delicate international relations issue, experts said yesterday.

Gov. Felix Camacho and 14 others leave today for a four-day trip to discuss investment opportunities on Guam with Taipei government and business leaders.

The delegation will include Camacho's wife, mother, grandson and executive secretary, in addition to representatives from the Guam Economic Development Authority and local business community. Air fare and hotel accommodations for those from the governor's office will be paid for by the Taiwanese government.

The trip is "an official state visit to Taipei at the invitation of Taipei President (Ying-jeou) Ma via the Taipei Ministry of Foreign Affairs," the governor's Director of Communications Charlene Calip said Monday.

Taiwanese sovereignty is a sensitive international relations issue, and an official visit by an American leader to Taiwan is a situation where terminology matters, said Michael Stoil, coordinator of the political science department of the University of Guam.

He said it was a "sloppy" misstatement by the governor's office that could offend both China and some in Washington.

"Beijing probably would not be happy with it being referred to as a state visit, even though it is," Stoil said. "Officially our State Department policy is, we recognize there is a single state of China with two governments. We conduct our diplomatic relations with China in Beijing."

Camacho will be the third American governor to visit Taiwan officially since Ma took office last year, following Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle. Lingle's office called her trip an "official state visit" in some media releases, and a trade mission in others.

Denny Roy, senior fellow at the East West Center in Hawaii and a specialist in Northeast Asian political and security issues, said autonomous diplomatic activity by Taiwan is an "irritant" to China.

"Beijing is extremely watchful of this and often retaliates against the country involved in the contact with Taiwan," Roy said. "China is especially sensitive to contacts between the Taiwan and U.S. governments because America has had such important influence over cross-Strait relations.

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