Tue, Jul 13, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Chen, Singapore's deputy PM discuss cooperation

UNOFFICIAL VISIT The president and Lee Hsien Loong exchanged views on strengthening bilateral programs, including trade and military training

By Lin Chieh-yu and Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTERS , WITH CNA

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) met Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) at the Presidential Office yesterday to discuss the enhancement of mutual co-operation as well as regional issues.

"They focused on issues such as hastening the realization of a free trade agreement and cooperation in security and military affairs," a senior member of the Presidential Office told the Taipei Times.

"Some reports in the local media claimed that Lee is here serving as a special envoy of Beijing to facilitate the reopening of cross-strait talks. This is over-interpretation," the official said.

Lee arrived Saturday night for what has been billed a private visit.

The government has declined to make any official statement about Lee's visit.

A government official, who asked not to be named, said that the Chen and Lee exchanged views on strengthening bilateral co-operative programs, including trade affairs and military training, as well as the integration and involvement of the Southeast-Asian region.

"Responding to Lee's concern over cross-strait issues, Chen also expressed Taiwan's sincerity and reaffirmed his resolution to solve the current deadlock," the official said.

"The Singaporean government has its priority policies, and Mr. Lee's priority, before being officially inaugurated as that country's prime minister, is to create his own credibility as the only heavyweight who can conduct dialogue with both sides of the Taiwan Strait," the official said.

Chen invited Lee and his entourage, including Defense Minister Teo Chee Hean (張志賢), to have dinner at his residence. Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and several top officials were also invited to the banquet.

Lee met Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) yesterday afternoon to express appreciation for Taiwan's assistance in the training of the Singaporean military.

Earlier Lee attended a luncheon at the Landis Taipei Hotel hosted by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰).

Lien's aides said Lien and Lee held a 50-minute meeting behind closed doors before the luncheon.

While Lee did not speak to reporters when he left the luncheon, Lien, noting the good relations between Taiwan and Singapore, said that he hoped both sides could work to strengthen mutual ties.

Noting that Lien has been friends with Lee for years, KMT Spokesman Alex Tsai (蔡正元) said that the luncheon was for "old friends' sake."

Wang said no political issues were brought up during the lunch.

"The conversation focused on Taiwan's economic development, such as the investment conditions in industrial parks in Taichung and Taoyuan, as well as enterprises on either side of the Taiwan Strait," Wang said.

Also see story:

Future Singaporean PM building bridges: experts

Editorial: Singapore's role in cross-strait ties

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