Beijing threatens revenge for visit

BEIJING has threatened comprehensive retaliatory measures against the United States which could have a 'cancerous' effect on relations.

However, the first day of the American tour of Lee Teng-hui, the cause of China's ire, went off very well for the Taiwan President.

He was cheered by Taiwanese-Americans and encouraged by the prospect of meeting senior politicians.

A group of pro-Taiwan senators yesterday chartered a private jet and were due to meet Mr Lee this morning at New York State's Syracuse airport.

They are Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, Alfonse D'Amato, chairman of the Banking Committee, and Frank Murkowski, chairman of the Energy Committee.

A spokesman for Mayor of Syracuse Roy Bernardi said Senate leader Robert Dole was also trying to find time to make it on to the plane.

The senators were due to have a short private meeting with Mr Lee before flying back to Washington.

They were not due to go with Mr Lee to his class reunion at his alma mater, Cornell University.

'There will not be a formal meeting, but the senators wanted to have an opportunity to greet him,' said the mayor's spokesman.

'The senators would also present Mr Lee with a copy of the Senate's resolution which recently called for him to be granted a US visa,' the spokesman said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang said punitive steps being contemplated against the US for fostering the visit would have a detrimental effect on China's economic and trading relations with the US.

In Beijing's strongest condemnation of Washington so far, Mr Shen warned that the Lee visit had put the basis of Sino-US relations into 'grave jeopardy'.

'The negative effects will far outweigh the steps taken by the Chinese side so far. In the long run there will be visible effects,' he said.

'A skin disease is visible but less serious than a cancer you cannot see. This problem will influence all areas,' Mr Shen said.

He said Washington had violated the three Sino-American communiques, the basis of diplomatic ties, and the consequence would be 'troubles and even retrogression'.

Mr Lee received a warm welcome when he arrived in Los Angeles.

He was greeted by the California State Treasurer Matt Fong, the highest-ranking Chinese-American officeholder in the state, and by the state's Secretary of Trade and Commerce, Julie Wright, at Los Angeles International Airport.

'One of my objectives as the state treasurer is to position California as America's primary financial centre for the dynamic Pacific Rim economy,' Mr Fong said.

'Since Taiwan is one of the state's strongest economic partners, how could I not be there to welcome President Lee?' In a speech to a group of overseas Chinese in Los Angeles, Mr Lee seized his first opportunity on US soil to blast China.

'This time I was invited to visit the United States. The US Government gave its nod but China opposed this strongly,' Mr Lee said.

'That China still has something to say about the president of the Republic of China coming to the US, I feel is very strange.

'To make this US visit has really not been easy. It is not that far away but it has seemed like going to the moon,' Mr Lee said. 'It has been really difficult.' Mr Lee spoke with California Governor Pete Wilson by telephone from his hotel.

'Wilson pledged to support Taiwan's application to become a full member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT),' said Paul Kranhold, a spokesman for the Governor, who has said he will seek the 1996 Republican presidential nomination. Taiwan currently has observer status in GATT.

Taiwan officials travelling with Mr Lee insisted the sole purpose of the visit was the reunion at Cornell, the university where he received a doctorate in agricultural economics in 1969.

'The decision of the US Government to agree to President Lee's visit is fully in accord with the current substantive relationship [between the US and Taiwan],' said a Taiwanese government spokesman.

Mr Lee is scheduled to give a speech at Cornell University early tomorrow..