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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 May 2006, 06:27 GMT 07:27 UK
Taiwan's Chen cancels US stopover
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian (L) speaks to journalists at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport
President Chen accused China of interfering
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has dropped plans to stop over in the US on his way to Latin America.

The move was prompted by a US decision not to allow him a more high-profile visit than a transit stop in Alaska.

Mr Chen - who has often made short visits to the US during previous trips abroad - accused China of influencing Washington's decision.

China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory, disapproves of trips that imply Taiwanese sovereignty.

Mr Chen is en route to Paraguay and Coast Rica, two of a decreasing number of countries - now just 25 - that recognise Taiwan diplomatically.

President Bush and Hu Jintao
China's leader Hu Jintao recently visited Washington
The Chinese leadership wants to discourage Taiwan's government from forming official ties with foreign nations or joining international organisations.

This is the Taiwanese leader's fifth trip to Latin America since becoming president in 2000, and on all his previous visits he has included transit stops in key US cities.

The level of transit stops has often been seen as a barometer of ties between the two sides, says the BBC correspondent in Taipei, Caroline Gluck.

Although the details of his exact proposals for this current trip have not been published, Taiwanese press reports said Mr Chen had originally hoped to stop this time in San Francisco and New York.

But Washington rejected that plan, suggesting Alaska instead, an offer which Taiwanese Foreign Minister James Huang said Taipei was "not satisfied" with.

On Thursday the foreign ministry went a step further, saying Mr Chen would not stop in the US at all en route to Latin America. The president's plans for the return trip are still unclear.

Taiwan's media pointed out that the final deal represented the lowest level treatment given by the US to a Taiwanese leader in more than a decade.

'Brutal block'

On his departure from Taipei's international airport, Mr Chen accused China of applying pressure on the US.

"They sought brutally and savagely to block the transit stops and foreign trips of our senior officials," Mr Chen said.

"We will not be defeated but will become bolder. The more we are suppressed, the more we will try to walk out," he told the Associated Press.

Taipei and Washington are traditionally allies, but analysts say the timing of Mr Chen's current visit is particularly sensitive, given Chinese President Hu Jintao's trip to Washington last month.

Relations between China and Taiwan have also cooled this year, with Mr Chen abolishing a body set up to deal with relations with Beijing. Washington appeared disquieted by the move at the time, anxious as it is to maintain the delicate status quo between the two sides.

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