Official forced to abort trip to China

AN official visit to China by United States Transportation Secretary Federico Pena has been cancelled after he was told he would not be welcome following his trip to Taiwan last week.

'Under the circumstances, it is difficult for China to accept this visit next month,' a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said yesterday.

A US Embassy spokesman in Beijing confirmed the cancellation of Mr Pena's trip to Beijing and several other cities, scheduled for January 7-20.

'In terms of protocol, this is a rather severe thing to do, but not surprising given Beijing's sensitivity over the Taiwan issue at the moment,' said one Western diplomat.

Repeating charges levelled during Mr Pena's milestone visit to Taipei last week, the Foreign Ministry said 'the US side repeatedly ignored representations made by the Chinese side and sent the Transportation Secretary to Taiwan'.

'This seriously violates the principles of the three Sino-US Joint communiques and breaks the repeated promise made by the US side not to have any official contact with Taiwan.' The joint communiques are a series of statements issued by the two sides since 1972 in which Washington adopted a one-China policy, and agreed to recognise Beijing as the sole legitimate Government of China.

Mr Pena's Taipei visit was made possible by a change in US policy, announced in September, permitting high-level official contacts for the first time since Washington broke off formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979.

While in Taiwan, Mr Pena made a series of remarks that were certain to offend Beijing's sensibilities.

He had told President Lee Teng-hui that he hoped more US Cabinet officials would visit Taiwan in the future.

Mr Pena is not the only high level US official to cancel a planned visit to Beijing.

Madeline Albright, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, will not be making the trip to Beijing that had also been scheduled for mid-January.

According to a diplomatic source, she intended to visit several Asian nations but has had to cancel because her schedule is too hectic.

'She looked at her calendar and decided there's too much going on in the UN just now,' he said.