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Taiwan's first lady to visit U.S. from Sept. 19.

TAIPEI, Sept. 10 Kyodo

Taiwan's first lady Wu Shu-chen will embark on a nine-day private trip to the United States on Sept. 19, A Taiwan Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday.

Wu, along with a 20-member entourage comprising her personal advisers, lawmakers and wives of some top officials, are scheduled to visit New York, Washington and Los Angeles, Chiou Jong-nan, deputy minister of foreign affairs, told a press conference.

During her stay in the U.S., Wu will meet with a number of U.S. Congressmen as well as U.S.-based overseas Chinese leaders, and also give two public speeches in New York and at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank, Chiou added.

Beijing has long seen Taiwan, which calls itself the Republic of China (ROC), as a breakaway province that should not conduct independent diplomacy.

Over the past two decades, high-ranking officials from Taiwan, even including its first lady, have been unable to visit countries that have official ties with China.

The trip to the U.S. will be the second time for the wheelchair-bound first lady to represent President Chen Shui-bian to travel abroad and disseminate Taiwan's democratic achievements, officials said.

Wu, on behalf of Chen, attended an event in Strasbourg, France on Nov. 14, 2001, in which the Taiwan leader was presented with the Liberal International Prize for Freedom 2001.

In May, it was arranged for her to visit South Korea at the invitation of the Korea Association of Persons with Physical Disabilities.

But the trip was called off by South Korea ahead of its co-hosting with Japan of the World Cup soccer finals, with Seoul arguing that Wu is a ''political figure'' and that her trip would run counter to its ''one-China'' policy in which Taiwan is considered part of Beijing-ruled China.

Prior to Wu, the only ROC first lady to visit Washington was Madame Chiang Kai-shek in February 1943, at which time she gave a public speech before the U.S. Senate.

Taipei was established as the seat of the ROC after 2 million supporters of Nationalist Party (KMT) leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan in 1949 following their defeat on the mainland by Communist forces.

The U.S. switched diplomatic ties from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 after recognizing the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Geographic Code:9TAIW
Date:Sep 16, 2002
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