Thu, Mar 28, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Chien denies NSB lobbying charge

FUND SCANDAL The minister of foreign affairs dismissed allegations that Taiwan used secret funds to lobby the US through Tokyo during the 1996 missile crisis

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) yesterday dismissed recent reports that secret National Security Bureau (NSB) funds' were used to lobby Japan to persuade the US to help Taiwan during the 1996 cross-strait missile crisis.

"It's hard for me to believe it's true," Chien said at the foreign affairs and overseas committee at the legislature yesterday.

Chien made the statement when a PFP legislator asked him whether certain NSB funds were channeled to lobby Japan to serve as a messenger in persuading the US to send its forces into the Taiwan Strait during the crisis.

Recent reports, based on classified NSB documents in the local and overseas press, allege that a secret government committee, code-named Mingte (明德), was established in 1994 to promote ties with the US and Japan.

The reports said that committee member Peng Run-tzu (彭榮次), president of the Taiwan Transportation Machinery Corp, was asked to lobby -- with cash -- the then Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto, to urge him to persuade the US to dispatch its forces into the Taiwan Strait.

Chien, who was reportedly also as a member of the secret committee, said that the US decision to dispatch two aircraft carriers into the Taiwan Strait stemmed from the overlapping national interests of the US and Taiwan and not any backdoor dealing.

"It's simply not possible that we could have influenced the Japanese Prime Minister with money," Chien said, who has been tight-lipped over the past few days when asked to confirm whether he was a member of the secret committee.

Hashimoto, who is currently hospitalized, has issued a statement denying the reports.

According to the book Alliance Adrift by renowned Japanese journalist Yoichi Funabashi, the US move to dispatch two aircraft carriers, the Independence and the Nimitz to the straits during the crisis, was proposed by the then US Defense Secretary William Perry.

"On the night of March 9, the US government decided to deploy the USS Nimitz as well as the USS Independence. Once again, this was Perry's decision," Funabashi wrote.

The dispatch was the largest massing of US military force in the western Pacific since the Vietnam War.

Based on his in-depth interview with Perry, Funabashi wrote: "Perry did not hesitate to say that `deploying the carriers was a great success.'

"This was because `above all else, it had contributed to making China's missile intimidation a political failure.'"

Based on his interviews with involved high-ranking Japanese officials, Funabashi wrote: "After the outbreak of the China-Taiwan crisis, there were days when Prime Minister Hashimoto couldn't sleep," as he was worried about questions such as rescue operations for Japanese residents in Taiwan should the need arise, among others.

China conducted naval and air force exercises with live ammunition from March 8 to 15, 1996, a move targeted at then president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).

A presidential election was scheduled for March 23 that year, with Lee then running as the KMT candidate.

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