Sat, Apr 10, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Minister of foreign affairs offers to quit over `mistakes'

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AP

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) offered to resign yesterday over what he called the ministry's mistakes leading to the resignation of American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairwoman Therese Shaheen.

"AIT Chairwoman Therese Shaheen's departure is very regrettable. Shaheen is Taiwan's good friend and plays the role of a communication bridge between the Republic of China and the US," Chien said at a news conference yesterday.

"We are very thankful for Shaheen's contribution to promoting Taiwan-US ties since she took over at the AIT," he said.

Chien said the ministry has overlooked certain procedures and failed in its supervision of the institute, which, in a way, led to Shaheen's resignation from her post on Wednesday.

The George W. Bush administration is believed to be displeased about a note Shaheen sent to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) congratulating him on his re-election before the White House had extended its official congratulations.

Pan-blue lawmakers claimed the ministry had asked Shaheen for the congratulatory remarks, a charge Chien strongly denied.

The manner in which Chen Chien-jen (程建人), Taiwan's top representative to the US, obtained Shaheen's congratulatory message has also triggered questions. After the AIT charwoman had phoned Chen Chien-jen to congratulate the president with his re-election, he asked her to sign an official congratulatory note.

Apologizing over Shaheen's decision to step down, Chien said, "I will never evade my responsibility. That is why I offered my resignation."

The minister said he has offered his resignation in both verbal and written form to the president and Premier Yu Shyi-kun.

At press time yesterday, the Presidential Office and Cabinet had issued no official comments about Chien's resignation.

Chien's press conference yesterday afternoon had an unusually high profile and was unexpectedly short. The ministry had been extremely tight-lipped about its reasons for calling the emergency press conference.

Before the press conference started, ministry spokesman Richard Shih (石瑞琦) said Chien would not take any questions from reporters.

Chien, leading his three vice ministers and other senior ministry officials into the pressroom, wrapped up his announcement in several minutes, shook hands with reporters and left soon after.

He did not mention whether a possible successor was being considered or what his plans were after his resignation.

Chien's resignation comes at a time when speculation is rife over who will replace Chen Chien-jen as Taiwan's de facto ambassador to Washington.

Chen Chien-jen's job at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office is viewed as one of the government's hottest positions. Chien and Mainland Affairs Council Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) have been mentioned as potential candidates.

During his brief announcement yesterday, Chien said: "I am very grateful for President Chen's trust and respect over the past four years. Two years ago, because of President Chen's and Premier Yu's support, I was appointed as the minister of foreign affairs. I will be thankful for the president and the premier's help and love forever."

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