Mon, May 20, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Chen's diplomacy efforts win kudos

FOREIGN AFFAIRS In the two years since he took office, the president has managed to keep ties with China stable, although he did not achieve any major breakthroughs

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Cross-strait relations and Taiwan's international standing have improved slightly over the past two years since President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) took office, although there were no significant breakthroughs, political observers said yesterday.

"There were no substantial achievements made in the government's efforts to improve cross-strait relations and foreign diplomacy over the past two years, although some improvements have been made," said Yang Chih-heng (楊志恆), deputy director of strategic and international studies at the Taiwan Research Institute.

But Chen's chances of being re-elected are good, another commentator said, as long as the local economy continues to pick up and cross-strait relations remain stable.

"Chen stands a good chance of winning as he gradually develops proficiency in handling cross-strait and diplomacy issues," said Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), executive director of the Institute for National Policy Research.

"I doubt that there'll be any major issues the opposition parties can use to attack him if the local economy improves and the cross-strait situation remains as stable as it is now."

Yang and Lo made the remarks during a symposium yesterday to discuss the Chen administration's cross-strait and foreign policies over the two years since the transfer of power.

The one-day event was organized by the Institute for National Policy Research, a Taipei-based think tank.

Yang particularly praised Chen's recent efforts to improve cross-strait relations.

"To pursue a resumption of formal cross-strait talks, [Chen] has vowed to push for a high-level DPP delegation to visit China in August after he takes the party's helm," Yang said. "In an unprecedented move, he has also proposed commissioning private organizations to help handle cross-strait issues."

Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) said that international and domestic factors had contributed to the stability of cross-strait relations.

"Cross-strait relations are relatively stable compared to the tension in the late 1990s thanks to the support of the US and Taiwan's becoming a more democratic country," Chen said.

In addition, China is preoccupied with holding the 16th National Congress and has little time to worry about Taiwan, Chen said.

Although the symposium's delegates regard cross-strait relations as being quite stable, they said the Chen administration still has a lot of work to do.

"Topping the list is the creation of a more systematic and effective communication and negotiation channel with opposition parties to bring them more in line with the government's stance," said Andy Chang (張五岳), director of the Institute of China Studies at Tamkang University.

Chang criticized the opposition parties for hindering the DPP-led government.

"They not only turn a blind eye to the president's goodwill to hold cross-party negotiations but also put their parties' interests before national interests," Chang said.

Liu Fu-kuo (劉復國), chairman of the Research and Planning Board at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the US was unlikely to overhaul its Taiwan policy, even though it had been more friendly to Taiwan recently.

"One of the immediate examples is the US government's support of Taiwan's gaining observer status at the World Health Assembly," Liu said. "Despite the US Congress' passing an act in support of Taiwan's accession to the global public health body, it failed to express its stance during the formal general discussion of the WHA meeting."

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