WASHINGTON, May 22 -- U.S. President Bill Clinton will allow Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui to visit the United States early next month to deliver an address at his alma mater in New York State, U.S. officials said Monday. Chinese officials 'were not happy' when informed of the ruling during a meeting Saturday with U.S. officials in Washington, they said. Ambassador Li Daoyu told Undersecretary of State Peter Tarnoff and national security advisor Anthony Lake that the decision by Clinton is contrary to the Clinton administration's 'one-China policy,' which recognizes Beijing but not Taipei. Beijing's communist government, which drove 2 million nationalist Chinese from the mainland to Taiwan in 1949, had 'repeatedly' asked the Clinton administration to deny a transit visa for Lee, who plans to speak during an alumni reunion June 8-11 at Cornell University. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns defended Clinton's decision as consistent with U.S. policy and supportive of the nation's belief in freedom of speech. 'President Clinton has decided to permit Lee Teng-hui to make a private visit to the United States in June for the express purpose of participating in an alumni reunion event at Cornell University,' Burns said. 'Americans treasure the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of travel and believe others should enjoy these privileges as well. 'The granting of a visa in this case is consistent with U.S. policy of maintaining only unofficial relations with Taiwan. It does not convey any change in our relations with our policies toward the People's Republic of China, with which we maintain official relations and recognize as the sole legal government of China.'
A senior U.S. official said the Chinese ambassador displayed 'obvious disappointment' when he was told of the decision. Although Li did not threaten retaliation, the official said the Clinton administration 'would not be surprised' if Bejing took 'some form of action to protest' the Taiwanese president's visit. U.S. officials say Clinton's decision is partly a result of pressure from Congress and partly in recognition of progress toward democracy the Taiwanese government has made in recent years. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have this year endorsed a non-binding resolution urging Clinton to extend a transit visa to Lee. Clinton's decision comes only eight months after the president accepted mild changes in Taiwan policy recommended by an inter-agency panel, led by Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord. The revised policy allows senior U.S. officials involved in business- related activities -- such as Commerce Secretary Ron Brown -- to meet with their Taiwanese counterparts. It permits Taiwanese officials to change airplanes at U.S. airports, but bars extended visits. The old policy did not permit government-to-government contacts with Taiwan or visits to the United States by its leaders. Washington's new approach also involves helping Taiwan gain admittance into the World Trade Organization, the Asian Development Bank and other international panels in which membership does not imply statehood.