Diplomatic Apology

Article excerpt

Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Diplomatic apology

Taiwan's new representative to the United States knows he does not have diplomatic status here, but he probably did not expect to be fingerprinted and photographed when he arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport last month.

U.S. authorities have apologized for the mistake and have blamed it on customs officers who were inexperienced with the special relationship between the United States and the Republic of China, which is Taiwan's official name.

David Ta Wei Lee, the new head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, arrived July 23.

He was accompanied by the acting U.S. representative to Taiwan, William Brown, who tried to explain to customs officials that Mr. Lee should be exempt from the new passport security measures designed to stop terrorists from entering the United States.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Richard Shih told the Taipei Times that the customs inspectors had violated the U.S.-Taiwanese agreement that has governed bilateral ties since the United States broke formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1978 and recognized communist China.

"However, the Department of State has already offered its apologies," he said. "In addition, ... Brown, who was present at the time, already apologized to Lee."

The Taiwanese press is playing the incident as a serious blow to diplomatic protocol, but Mr. Shih attributed it to a mistake by "customs officials who are not familiar with their duties."

Mr. Lee travels on an E1 visa, which is issued to business travelers, and not on a diplomatic visa.

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