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Wen mission delivers blow to Chen

By CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam

Wen stated Beijing's appreciation of the U.S's clear-cut stance.
Wen stated Beijing's appreciation of the U.S's clear-cut stance.

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(CNN) -- It is unlikely that the Taiwan Strait crisis will be defused after the largely successful meeting between Premier Wen Jiabao and President George W. Bush at the White House on Tuesday.

On his first major diplomatic foray, Wen could certainly tell his colleagues at the supreme Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee that he was able to extract a sizeable concession from the White House: Bush has stated his unambiguous opposition to Taiwan "unilaterally trying to change the status quo of the Strait", such as by holding referendums on issues of statehood.

Earlier, senior U.S. officials had adopted the ambiguous line that they merely "did not support" Taiwan independence.

Chinese sources close to the Bush-Wen summit said the U.S. side also pledged to send regular emissaries to Taipei to persuade Chen not to use excuses such as referendums and constitutional amendments to "push the envelop" on independence.

Diplomatic analysts in Beijing and Taipei said Bush's concession to Beijing had at least temporarily put Chen on the defensive and some wind might have been taken out of his vigorous re-election campaign.

A major reason Chen had made gains over opposition presidential candidate Lien Chan is the perception that the Democratic Progressive Party leader enjoys hefty U.S. backing.

However, being an experienced tactician, Chen could try to stir up quasi-nationalist feelings on the island by citing the "bullying tactics" perpetrated by Taiwan's oppressors, the mainland authorities.

And in spite of Washington's warnings, it is likely Chen will push ahead with plans to hold a plebiscite on election day, March 20, to ask residents to air their opposition to 496 mainland missiles aimed at Taiwan.

Responding to apparent pressure that Washington is putting on Taipei, Taiwan Foreign Minister Eugene Chien pointed out that the referendums to be held in Taiwan would "certainly not touch upon issues of independence or statehood."

While meeting Bush, Wen expressed Beijing's appreciation for Washington's clear-cut stance against Taiwan independence. (Full story)

However, the Bush team has made no concession on the quality or quantity of weapons it is selling Taiwan.

Analysts said that during an election year Bush has to take into consideration the U.S.'s powerful arms manufacturing establishment, for which Taiwan is a major client.

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