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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deputy's Taiwan Visit Creates Storm

The State Duma backed away Friday from criticizing a visit to Taiwan by ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky despite protests from China, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province.

The trip this week by the flamboyant Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader has proved a fly in the ointment for Russia's relations with China, a key strategic partner and arms customer. But a resolution by deputies from the Yabloko faction to rebuke him for his overseas high jinks got only 49 of the 226 votes needed for passage.

The draft resolution, sponsored by Yabloko Deputies Alexei Arbatov and Sergei Ivanenko, said that "the given trip was organized at the private initiative of several deputies of the State Duma and has no relationship to official foreign relations conducted by the State Duma."

It said the Duma adhered to the line held by the government f that there is only one China and Taiwan is part of it.

Zhirinovsky told fellow lawmakers the resolution was off base because it did not mention him by name or say what he did in Taiwan that was improper. "Which deputies? What actions?" he said. "What kind of a resolution is this? It's nonsense from the moral, legal and political points of view."

The Foreign Ministry issued a disclaimer Friday, saying the trip, in which 10 deputies participated, was Zhirinovsky's "personal initiative."

China relentlessly seeks to squelch any recognition of Taiwan, saying it is part of China and has no right to conduct foreign relations. The island is recognized by 27 countries, mostly in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean.

In response to Zhirinovsky's visit, the Chinese Embassy sent a letter of protest on Thursday to the Duma's international affairs committee.

It said China considers reunification with Taiwan to be its chief foreign policy goal and that it was "resolutely opposed to any attempts by anyone to create a situation of two Chinas or one China and one Taiwan," Interfax reported.

Russian news media reported that Zhirinovsky invited Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui to visit Russia, though it is a near certainty the Foreign Ministry would not grant Lee a visa.

Zhirinovsky's visit was awkward for Russia because it coincided with a China trip by Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev and came a week before Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov is scheduled to visit.

The trip was paid for in part by supporters of the LDPR and in part by "the Taiwanese side," Zhirinovsky said.

"Every time when there was contact with the president, with legislators and business circles, I said that we do not interfere in Chinese affairs and we do not have an opinion f will China be divided or under what terms will it be reunited, this isn't our business," he said.

The Taiwanese have plenty of capital, Zhirinovsky said, "and they're ready to invest it, including in Russia's economy. There are only pluses. We made no political statements. What is the problem?"