Taiwan envoy admits US kept in the dark over controversial flag-raising

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan's top envoy to the US on Wednesday said that Taiwan did not let US officials know about a flag-raising ceremony on American soil, indicating that by leaving the US in the dark it would give Washington deniability about the controversial matter with China.

Taiwan's de facto embassy in Washington hoisted a Taiwanese flag on New Year's Day, which local media reported was the first such flag-raising since the US switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing in 1979.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war with the Communists in 1949.

On Monday, China angrily protested to the US, Taiwan's biggest political ally, about the matter.

The US State Department said it was not told in advance about the ceremony and that it was inconsistent with US policy.

Mr Shen Lyushun, the representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US, told a Taiwanese parliamentary session on Wednesday that Taiwan deliberately did not let Washington know about the flag ceremony.

"We especially did not let them (the US) know. It was a goodwill gesture," Mr Shen said. "If China protests, you can say you didn't know."

China deems Taiwan a renegade province and has never ruled out the use of force to take it back, particularly if the island makes a move toward independence. Beijing is sensitive about matters, such as the raising of a national flag, that might give Taiwan official sovereign status.