Tue, Oct 14, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Other allies in jeopardy

RELATIONS Two of Taiwan's allies face elections next year with opposition parties that might switch allegiance

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

DPP lawmaker Parris Chang (張旭成) yesterday warned Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) that Taiwan's relations with other allies were unstable in the wake of Liberia's switching diplomatic relations to Beijing.

Liberia was the second ally lost during Chien's tenure.

While most legislators said losing a war-torn and chaotic ally like Liberia was hardly to be regretted, Chang, convener of the legislature's Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee, cautioned Chien to pay close attention to Panama and El Salvador, two of Taiwan's allies in Latin America.

The two countries will be holding presidential elections in the near future. The countries' opposition political parties may not be in favor of continuing diplomatic ties with Taiwan. El Salvador's opposition presidential candidate has even said he will cut ties with Taiwan if he is elected, Chang said.

"We have been in contact with the two countries' opposition parties. We can't say all our ties with our allies are safe. Most of our allies are democratic countries and they have presidential elections every four or five years," replied Chien.

"We are not confident that all these countries' opposition parties would want to keep diplomatic ties with Taiwan," Chien said.

Chang, nevertheless, told Chien not to fall into the "number myth" when dealing with Taiwan's foreign affairs. "The number of our allies is irrelevant to our diplomatic performance. If we want more allies, we can do it," he said.

Chang urged Chien's ministry to seek opportunities to establish diplomatic ties with East European and Scandinavian countries.

It would be a "quality breakthrough" if Taiwan can build diplomatic relations with these countries because such ties will bring mutual benefits, he said.

Chang spoke after Chien gave an administrative report in a legislative session yesterday. The report mentioned that, in May, Taiwan had sent 5,000 tonnes of rice to Liberian refugees forced to flee their homes during the country's recent fighting.

Chien's report also said that last month Taiwan cooperated with 10 Liberian non-governmental organizations to donate US$500,000 to buy 600 tonnes of nutritional food for the country's children.

Taiwan struggled to the last minute to save its relations with Liberia, Chien said. While other countries' foreign officials stationed in the country's capital Monrovia retreated because of the wars, Ambassador to Liberia Chen Yeong-cho (陳永綽) was the last one to abandon his embassy, Chien said.

"I blame myself deeply [for losing Liberia]," he said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator John Chang (章孝嚴) asked Chien to take the responsibility and resign for losing two allies within two years.

Chien pointed out that John Chang, during his time as foreign minister, had lost three allies and gained two new ones during his term in office.

John Chang protested at this saying: "You [Chien] have to check the record before saying so."

A record Chien's colleagues provided later, showed Chien's statement to be correct.

Criticizing Chien's failure to obtain new diplomatic allies, John Chang said most of Taiwan's aid to Liberia rarely reached the nation's people because the country's former dictator Charles Taylor purloined the major part.

KMT Legislator Sun Kuo-hwa (孫國華) said the huge amount of money Liberia borrowed from Taiwan's commercial banks is now in danger of default and Taiwan's taxpayers will have to pick up the tab.

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