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News Briefs

Much at Stake as Taiwan Heads for Polls


When Taiwan’s voters go to the polls Saturday to select their next president, the wary peace between the island and mainland China will be at stake, as well as prospects for China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, the state of relations between the United States and China, and even the American presidential contest itself.

In only its second presidential election since truncating itself from the communist mainland in 1949, Taiwan’s balloting is taking place under a darkening cloud of threats from Beijing, which has displayed a growing alarm and anger at the island’s steady march toward independence. Beijing insists that Taiwan is an integral part of China, a proposition regarded somewhat dubiously on the island itself.

On Wednesday, China’s prime minister Zhu Rongji, his voice rising in anger and shaking his fist, told reporters in Beijing that “the people of Taiwan are standing at a very critical historical juncture, so let me give advice to all the people of Taiwan: do not act on impulse.”

“We must make it crystal clear,” he said. “No matter who comes to power in Taiwan, Taiwan will never be allowed to be independent.”

DeLay Sharply Criticizes Clinton China Policy


House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, launched a broad attack Thursday on the Clinton administration’s foreign policy, charging that it lacks coherence, ignores “core American values,” and serves up “an inedible ... stew of appeasement and social work.”

In the wake of Chinese threats over Saturday’s presidential election in Taiwan, DeLay urged the administration to stand up to the “bullies” in Beijing, scrap the “diplomatic fiction” that the mainland and Taiwan are parts of “one China,” and “make clear that threats to a free, democratic people will be met with the force required to deter and, if necessary, confront aggression.”

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think-tank, DeLay demonstrated the highly partisan style he typically wields on domestic policy. The Republican lawmaker denounced U.S. involvement in Kosovo, where he said neither side shared American values, and compared U.S. policy toward Taiwan to the late British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy toward Czechoslovakia before it was overrun by Nazi forces in 1939.

“Having learned nothing from the folly of Munich, the Clinton administration has embraced a level of appeasement that would have embarrassed Neville Chamberlain,” he said.

Bush Chastises Gore on IRS


Texas Gov. George W. Bush chastised Vice President Al Gore Thursday for attempts by Gore staffers to obtain information from the IRS about an unnamed labor union and said the 1997 episode shows the need for “a fresh start” at the White House.

Seeking to turn the issue to his political advantage, Bush demanded a public explanation from Gore about the incident, which he said raises “serious ethical questions.” The episode was disclosed by congressional investigators for the Joint Committee on Taxation earlier this week as part of a three-year investigation involving tax-exempt organizations.

The committee’s chief of staff, Lindy L. Paull, said the Gore staffers were seeking confidential “taxpayer information” that is protected by law. Gore’s office defended the contacts as properly authorized and said the staffers were conducting a “simple status check.”