China doesn’t like it that the United States has given Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian a visa for a stopover in Los Angeles today on his way to the Caribbean.

A less subtle reaction caused by the seemingly innocuous visit of Chen to the L.A. International Airport transit lounge is the nervousness caused in Tokyo, where bureaucrats are mulling preparations for an official visit to Japan by Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji in the fall.

The complication in Japanese eyes is that former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui also wants to make a visit to Japan his year, possibly to his alma mater, Kyoto University.

Japanese politicians, including many from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, want Japan to stand up to China on the issue.

Other Japanese think it is about time both Chinese and Taiwanese leaders at least sit down and talk. The successful realization of the South-North Korean summit is given as an example of how talks could help move the situation toward peace or at least ease tensions..

Taiwan’s Chen has said he would be prepared to meet Chinese leader Jiang Zemin in a similar summit faceoff. While China has praised the Korean accommodation, Beijing still insists that no dialogue with Taipei is possible until it first accepts the “one-China principle” acknowledging the mainland’s sovereignty over Taiwan.

On Aug. 4, the Chinese government urged the U.S. to reverse its decision to give Chen a visa. The U.S. has been as closely involved with the China political evolution as it has been with the situation on the Korea Peninsula. China backed North Korea’s entry in the United Nations some years ago to help Pyongyang return to the world. This was difficult since the “United Nations Command” was the ostensible enemy of North Korea and China in the Korean War

But it shows that nothing is impossible in the world of diplomacy, even diplomacy engineered by the Chinese Communist Party. We could awaken some dawn to find that Beijing’s idea of a relationship with Taiwan has changed. Don’t look for an abrupt change to happen by Saturday but we have seen some vague nuances in Chinese reaction to suggest that they are thinking things over.

When former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui visited Cornell University in 1995, Beijing broke off semiofficial contacts with the U.S. and began conducting war games that culminated in firing missiles into the sea near Taiwan in 1996. The U.S. responded by dispatching two aircraft carrier to the area. Beijing’s temper flared again when the U.S. granted Lee a transit visa in 1997.

A U.S. State Department official said granting Chen’s stopover is part of a longstanding U.S. policy toward Taiwan’s leaders. He said Chen would not meet any U.S. officials, although he will meet Richard Bush, chair of the American Institute in Taiwan, which handles unofficial U.S. ties with the island.

Taiwan also angered China by making a fresh attempt to join the U.N., saying 12 allies had submitted a proposal asking the world body to grant membership. Taiwan makes the attempt every year and each year is defeated. Although this is the first such effort under Chen’s administration, there is no reason to expect this bid to succeed.

Twenty-nine countries recognize the diplomatically isolated island, mostly poor countries in Africa, Latin America and the Pacific. Taiwan, formally known as the Republic of China, lost the China seat in the U.N. to Beijing in 1971.

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