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US approves Taiwan military plane's transit

TAIPEI, Jan 21 (AFP) - The United States allowed a Taiwan military plane to transit its territory for the first time in 30 years, giving the go-ahead without first consulting China, officials and media said Thursday.

The cargo plane made a stop inside US territory while carrying relief supplies to quake-ravaged Haiti, according to the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy.

"The United States approved Taiwan's request for a cargo plane to land and refuel in US territory in order to reach Haiti as soon as possible," Christopher Kavanagh, an official at the institute, told AFP.

When asked if Washington had discussed the sensitive issue with Beijing prior to giving the green light, Kavanagh told AFP "there is no need" as the approval was granted on humanitarian grounds.

China, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, usually reacts with anger at military and other official contacts between the island and any country, especially the United States.

Kavanagh declined to be specific about when or where the cargo plane had made the stop.

The Taipei-based United Daily News identified the aircraft as a C-130 transport plane from the island's air force and said the stop was for refuelling.

It was the first US transit by a Taiwanese military plane since Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, according to the paper.

Taiwan's defence and foreign ministries declined comment when contacted by AFP Thursday.

The approval came before Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou leaves for the inauguration of Honduran president-elect Porfirio Lobo Sosa next week, with a transit stop in San Francisco.

Ma's planned stopover has touched off anger in Beijing, which has warned the United States against having any official contact with Ma during his brief stay in California.

Ma had made transit stops in the US on previous Latin America tours but kept them low-profile in line with his China-friendly policy.

Beijing opposes any overseas visits by officials from Taiwan, which has governed itself since 1949 at the end of a civil war.

MySinchew 2010.01.21


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