Tue, Nov 11, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Chen denies he paid to meet a Bush

POLITICAL ATTACK The president denied PFP Chairman James Soong's claims that he paid US$1m to meet a brother of US President George W. Bush

BY MELODY CHEN AND LIN CHIEH-YU  /  STAFF REPORTERS

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday defended himself against accusations by People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) that he paid US$1 million to meet with a family member of US President George W. Bush during his visit to the US earlier this month.

Although Soong did not say who the family member was, PFP and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) officials later identified the person as Bush's brother Neil Bush.

Speaking to a crowd of more than 500 people in Yunlin County on Sunday, Soong said the US' high-profile reception for Chen was a result of the US$1 million that Chen gave to the Bush family.

A broker representing the Bush family had contacted KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) before Lien went to the US last month, Soong said.

"A broker for the family member told Lien he could meet with the US president's brother if he was willing to pay US$1 million. I believe Chen was well received by the US because he paid the money," Soong said.

Soong described Chen's trip to the US as a spending spree.

"Chen promised to buy eight submarines," Soong said, referring to an arms package offered by the US in 2001.

"Chen boasted about his meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Panama. But during his exchange with Powell, he only managed to say: `How are you?'" Soong said.

"But Chen told our people the interaction with Powell was a significant diplomatic breakthrough. He lied to our people," Soong said.

The KMT and the PFP both backed up Soong's allegation.

KMT Spokesman Alex Tsai (蔡正元) said that when Chen and Lien announced their trips to the US several months ago, a broker came to Taiwan offering a meeting with Neil Bush for US$1 million.

"The broker said if Lien paid the US$1 million, he would have a meeting with Neil Bush and enjoy a high-profile reception in the US," Tsai said.

"But the KMT rejected the deal because it didn't have so much money. Besides, [such a meeting] didn't carry any substantial meaning," Tsai said.

Local media have reported that Chen's talk with Neil Bush lasted for 30 minutes.

Chen denied yesterday he had paid to meet anyone during the trip.

"My visit this time gained the approval and appreciation of more than 60 percent of the Taiwanese people. Compared to past [visits], it was quite a remarkable opinion poll result. But our opponents are still heaping on the abuse," Chen said during a speech at the annual conference of the North American Taiwanese Medical Association.

Chen said he could not imagine what had come over his political opponents.

"Trails are to be blazed by people. Don't judge a gentleman's belly with a petty man's heart," he said, using a Chinese idiom.

Chen expressed outrage at the opposition's claim that he spent US$1 million to meet with someone.

Deputy Secretary-General of the Presidential Office Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) also said that he was surprised by Soong's accusation and that such a groundless attack was a serious affront to the Bush family.

"Since the US government launched the global anti-terrorist campaign and took military action against Iraq, the PFP has demonstrated its strong anti-US attitude," Wu said.

"Now, the PFP has the nerve to deem American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairwoman Therese Shaheen unwelcome and to suggest that President Bush's family members accepted bribes from Taiwan," Wu said.

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