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Taiwan pulls out of APEC Shanghai summit

Chen
Repeated requests for President Chen Shui-bian to attend were also rejected  


By CNN's Alex Frew McMillan in Shanghai

SHANGHAI, China (CNN) -- Taiwan has pulled out of this week's APEC forum, as its dispute with host China reached boiling point.

China, host of the 2001 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, refused to extend an invitation to Taiwan's chosen lead delegate, Li Yuan-Zu.

Taiwan at first postponed Li's arrival to Friday, hoping China would relent. But Friday morning, when it became clear it wouldn't, Taiwan chose to pull its delegation and head home.

"We haven't received the letter from the host," said Jack Kuei, Taiwan's spokesman for the Taiwan delegation.

"So we have decided to pull out from the APEC summit." The delegates who are already in Shanghai plan to leave for Taipei on Saturday.

A frosty Chinese reaction

China's Foreign Minister Tang Jianxuan, was extremely frosty Thursday when asked by reporters about Taiwan's choice of delegates.

"The Taiwanese authorities are to be blamed," he said, saying Taiwan was well aware of APEC protocol.

He said an economics minister was welcome to the business forum, and he didn't understand why Taiwan was pushing the issue of Li's visit.

"I believe there is a deliberate political plot behind it, some unique motives behind it," Tang said.

He later refused to accept any more questions from Taiwanese media on the topic, saying "we don't think that it is valuable to waste everyone's time."

Leader's Summit skipped

Taiwan attends APEC as one of the 21 member economies under the name "Chinese Taipei." But China fights to prevent Taiwan from being recognized as an independent nation at global events.

Spokesman Kuei said Taiwan would not send anyone to this weekend's leaders' summit that will feature the heads of the 21 APEC members.

It had participated in APEC through junior minister. but Kuei said that without Li, it had no suitable "leader" to represent it on Saturday and Sunday.

Taiwan Foreign Minister Tien Hong-mao called a press conference in Taipei Friday morning to lay the blame on the Chinese.

Tien said there would be no delegate from Taiwan to attend that informal leaders' conference because Beijing had repeatedly delayed issuing a proper invitation to Taiwan.

Taiwan's Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Hsin-I has been in Shanghai, heading Taiwan's party.

Lin signed off on Thursday's joint statement of foreign and economic ministers, which called for reducing tariffs and a new round of World Trade Organization talks.

It is not clear how Taiwan's decision will affect that statement, which leaders are due to sign off on, or the anti-terrorism statement which leaders are expected to sign.

"We think that its really regretful," Kuei said, adding that Taiwan tried to negotiation Li's visit for weeks. "We think that the host will take the whole responsibility for this."

China refused to allow Li, Taiwan's vice president from 1990 to 1996, to head the delegation because it viewed him as too political.

Taiwan said Li, senior advisor to President Chen Shui-bian, was the correct choice to discuss terrorism and was acceptable to Taiwan's opposition party, the Kuomintang.

Chen had proposed sending Li to the summit after Beijing rejected repeated requests for Chen himself to attend.

Closer ties sought

Taiwan's slumping economy has forced its government to seek closer ties to China.

But China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, has responded by playing hardball, saying Taipei must recognize the same One China Two Systems policy operating in Hong Kong, now an autonomous region of China.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949.

China and Taiwan both joined APEC in 1991, but China has successfully blocked Taiwanese presidents from going to the group's annual forums, attended by the top politicians from all other members.

The APEC members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.






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