Many news sources are reporting that Andrew Card, with longstanding ties to the Bush family, will be sent to represent the US at Ma’s swearing-in. The Nelson Report, the Washington Insider Report, with the latest on that and the Administration:

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TAIWAN…a final quick note…Administration sources had hinted for some time that the White House would try to make-up for not granting president-elect Ma a visa to come here prior to his inauguration, by sending a “very high level” delegation to that event.

So Taiwanese sources today are reacting with some disappointment that the leader of President Bush’s personal delegation is to be former White House chief of staff, and former Secretary of Transportation, Andy Card.

We’d argue that any angst is misplaced, in this sense: obviously, if the rumors that the White House was approaching former Secretary of State Jim Baker had proven true (or had worked out) that would be a very big deal by anyone’s measure, most particularly in Beijing.

But the selection of Card sends a more subtle message, of nearly equal importance when you recognize that for President Bush, there is little distinction between the personal and the official, and that for him, the personal is equally if not more important.

Sometimes this is good, sometimes not so good!

In any event, Card is a close, trusted, and valued associate of Bush, and we are reminded that he was deeply involved in Taiwan affairs, behind the scenes, during his tenure as chief of staff.[MT: Anyone got more info on Card's Taiwan connections?]

So Card is not a mere figure-head, but someone with genuine personal knowledge and experience, in addition to someone who will genuinely represent President Bush in the truest sense.

Another decision many on Taiwan are awaiting…whether the White House will approve the proposed sale of F-16’s…we will repeat our earlier report, from directly involved sources, that this decision will wait on a personal request from President Ma.[MT: Taiwan has already delivered a formal request via letter last year, which the Administration blocked.]

If Ma decides that he can balance an F-16 sale against his clear desire for improved cross-Strait relations, in other words, the White House is apparently prepared to consider the sale favorably.

At least part of that calculation, for both Washington and Taipei, is whether China can bring itself to make a confidence building move involving some of its 1,000-plus missiles lined up on the coast.

Senior Chinese sources have told us, and other Loyal Readers confirm, that there IS serious discussion in Beijing of perhaps moving up to a brigade of the missiles…so how one factors the timing of that with possible US arms sales is but one of many interesting things to watch.[MT: Hoo-boy! A whole brigade! Whoopee! According to the Washington Times' Bill Geertz, has up to 96 missiles. China will remove a whole hundred missiles, leaving only....1300, or about twice as many as they had back in 2000! That's progress! And you know that at about the time, or shortly after, they remove the missiles, they'll announce an upgrade/redeployment/new deployment of something important aimed at Taiwan....]