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Editorial: Welcome to Seattle, President Chen

Seattle, Tuesday, August 31, 2004


The President of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian, visits Seattle Friday, to a sincere but unofficial welcome. His government is a friend of America. Taiwan is a major trading partner, particularly of Washington.

Thousands of Taiwan's emigrants and students are here, and yet, to placate China, Taiwan's government is unrecognized in such entities as the World Health Organization and the United Nations.

Chen is democratically elected in a state that has embraced all the vigor of democracy and a free press.

Accompanying President Chen will be an official of the American Institute on Taiwan. Officially, that is a nonprofit group; unofficially, it is the U.S. embassy. Chen's visit here is being coordinated by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle. Officially, that is a trade-promotion group; unofficially, it is the Taiwan consulate.

Officially, President Chen is stopping in Seattle in transit after a state visit to Panama and Belize, to stretch his legs before the long flight across the Pacific. Chen, his staff accompanied by some 40 members of the Taiwan media are not allowed on U.S. soil for political or publicity reasons. Unofficially, they will attend a dinner sponsored by local Taiwan organizations.

All of this is faintly ridiculous. Taiwan is an independent country of 22.5 million people. It ought to be in the United Nations because it is part of humanity and its voice should be heard.

It ought to be in the World Health Organization, so that if it is hit by SARS, or something even worse, it can be part of the international response team.

Someday, Taiwan and China will get this straightened out. In the meantime, welcome President Chen of Taiwan.