Wed, Jul 23, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Presidential aide off to US for talks

LOTS TO TALK ABOUT Officials from the foreign ministry and Presidential Office yesterday left for the US, possibly to discuss plans to hold referendums

By Ko Shu-ling, Chang Yun-ping and Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Presidential Office Secretary-General Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) left for Washington yesterday to discuss with high-ranking US officials issues of mutual concern, possibly including referendums, the minster of foreign affairs and Presidential Office sources said yesterday.

Chiou was accompanied by Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂), National Security Council Deputy Secretary-General Ko Cheng-heng (柯承亨) and DPP legislators Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) and Chen Chung-hsin (陳忠信).

They were expected to meet with White House Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

The Presidential Office yesterday said little about the trip, but it is thought that Chiou will discuss the DPP government's plan to hold a referendum on or before presidential election day next year.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has pledged to hold referendums to decide whether the half-completed Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be scrapped and whether the nation should join the World Health Organization (WHO) as an observer.

Although the US government has made it clear that Taiwan has to make the decision on whether to hold referendums, some officials have reportedly expressed their reservations about the plan.

Douglas Paal, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, was quoted in Chinese-language news-papers as telling Chen that the US opposed any kind of referendum because Beijing would construe them as provocative. Paal denied making the comment.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) yesterday confirmed that Chiou was traveling to Washington for talks on "the referendum, trade and other related issues."

"We think Chiou is the most appropriate person to communicate with the US," Chien said after the DPP's weekly closed-door Central Standing Committee meeting.

A foreign ministry spokesman, however, denied that Kau would also be discussing the referendum while in Washington.

Kau's trip will focus on his visit to the National Endowment for Democracy and expressing the government's gratitude for US support for Taiwan's bid to join the WHO, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Richard Shih (石瑞琦) said.

Meanwhile, Chien also confirmed that Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) will travel to Paraguay next month to attend the inauguration ceremony of the new president in Taiwan's only official diplomatic ally in South America.

Also see story:

Vice president Lu to visit Paraguay for inauguration

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