Fri, Aug 24, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Hsieh in Washington -- an appraisal

By Li Thian-hok 李天福

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), made a 10-day trip to the US late last month.

The trip had two main purposes.

One was to drum up support among the Taiwanese-American community across the US.

The other was to meet officials from the administration of US President George W. Bush and members of Congress to obtain a personal grasp of US concerns, and to explain Taiwanese aspirations, the complex and often divisive politics in Taiwan and his position on Taiwan's relations with the US and China.

In terms of the first objective, the trip was an unqualified success.

Taiwanese expatriates turned out in great numbers to welcome Hsieh. At the gala dinner in Washington on July 22, more than 1,000 attendees came from all over the US and a few from South America. In Los Angeles the rally attracted 3,000 participants.

Enthusiasm was high because Taiwanese-Americans realize that next year's presidential race will decide whether Taiwan is annexed by China should Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) win, or will remain a democratic state in which all citizens can continue to enjoy freedom and prosperity.

Hsieh had a busy schedule during his four days in Washington. During these sessions he expounded eloquently on his positions on many important issues. In his speech at the National Press Club, he stressed the importance of Taiwan's national security and the need to increase the defense budget.

He said that after years of obstruction by the pan-blue opposition, the legislature has finally approved a substantial portion of the arms package offered by the Bush administration in 2001, although that package is now stalled in the US State Department waiting for its approval.

Hsieh wisely linked the nation's security with a strong sense of Taiwanese identity that is based on a commitment to democracy. Such an identity, he said, "could come about only if the Taiwanese people are patriotic and believe they live in an independent country worth defending."

Hsieh pointed out the importance of solidarity at home to cope with China's divide-and-conquer strategy.

If elected president, he said he would invite members of other parties to form a majority coalition in the legislature.

Hsieh understands the critical importance of US friendship to Taiwan's survival. He is keenly aware of the US' overriding desire to avoid any confrontation with China in view of US entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Washington is very sensitive to any action by Taiwan which may irritate or anger Beijing. Thus Hsieh promised to consult Washington before any substantive action is taken and to keep his promises, as a way to increase mutual understanding and restore trust.

In regard to China, Hsieh promised to "make every effort to restore cross-strait dialogue ... and to ease the tension across the Taiwan Strait. But I will never accept any precondition to give up our sovereignty."

Hsieh's position is sharply different from Ma's peace accord proposal, which is predicated on Taiwan's acceptance of Beijing's claim that Taiwan is part of China.

In the face of considerable pressure from US officials, Hsieh defended President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) proposal to conduct a referendum to seek UN admission under the name "Taiwan."

"Taiwanese want more dignity, respect and international representation ... We feel that America needs to better understand Taiwanese sentiment on our wanting to join the UN," he said.

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