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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 20:47 GMT 21:47 UK
Taiwan breathes easy after Hu visit
The Chinese vice-president in Washington
Hu Jintao and George W Bush stuck to the script
test hello test
By Damien Grammaticas
BBC Taiwan correspondent

China's Vice President Hu Jintao is heading home after several days of talks in the United States.

Mr Hu is likely to be China's next leader, and at the heart of his discussions with President George Bush and others in Washington was the issue of Taiwan.

US relations with Taiwan have warmed in recent months, so the island has been watching the visit to see if it will herald any change in American policy.

The island has been heaving a sigh of relief.

Anxious moments

This was the most important foray China's vice-president, and its possible future leader, has ever made onto the international stage.

Moments like these are always watched with intense interest and a suppressed sense of anxiety in Taipei.

Taiwan is basking in the glow of its warmest relationship with a US administration for some time.

Chen Shui-bian
Nervous times for Chen Shui-bian

But while Hu Jintao appears to have made a positive impression in Washington, Taiwanese officials believe there will be no change in US policy.

Mr Hu's meetings with President Bush, and the most senior members of his administration, were apparently friendly.

But both sides stuck to their scripts and there were no nasty surprises for Taiwan.

Mr Hu warned that selling advanced weapons to the island or upgrading Taiwan relations could harm US ties with China.

Taiwan's thanks

That is nothing new. Mr. Bush told China to stop deploying missiles targeting Taiwan or he will provide for its defence.

That robust message will hearten Taiwan.

A Taiwanese fighter
Taiwan is getting new American arms
In a speech on Thursday evening, Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian indicated his gratitude for US support.

And he recognised its limits, promising not, in his words, to "undermine stability across the Taiwan Strait".

After visiting the Pentagon, Hu Jintao said that Washington and Beijing will work to restore military exchanges, suspended after the spy-plane incident last year.

New arms package

But that too has not worried Taiwan. Officials say there is no sign Washington will halt its growing military ties with the island.

Last year, President Bush promised Taipei its biggest arms package in a decade, including destroyers, submarines and new aircraft.

In March this year, his Deputy Defence Minister Paul Wolfowitz met Taiwan's Defence Minister Tang Yiau-ming in Florida.

Taiwan's Government believes that it will continue to win support from Washington as long as Beijing keeps up its military expansion.

And it adds there is unlikely to be any improvement in its own relations with Beijing until after China's top leadership changes later this year.

See also:

03 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan to buy water from China
02 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
China's Hu warns US over Taiwan
02 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
Bush meets China's Hu
01 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
China attacks Taiwan's 'warrior'
27 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
US eyes China's coming man
24 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
China's Hu warns 'bullying' nations
26 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese vice-president in Singapore
26 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
China stops US warship's HK call
20 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Neither enemies nor friends
20 Feb 02 | Americas
US-China dialogue warms
16 Feb 02 | Media reports
Hu Jintao: Hardliner or liberal?
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