Sun, Sep 19, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Spy rumors make minister rush to US

DAMAGE CONTROL?Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen slipped out of Taipei late on Friday, following allegations that US confidential documents were given to Taiwan


Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) made a rushed departure for the US and Grenada ahead of schedule late on Friday night in the wake of allegations that former US State Department official Donald Keyser had passed confidential documents to Taiwanese intelligence agents and concealed a trip to Taiwan, the ministry announced yesterday.

While Chen had originally not been slated to arrive in Baltimore until tomorrow, ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said that Chen made a last-minute decision to schedule a visit to Grenada, quietly leaving Taiwan ahead of schedule late on Friday night before the media got wind of his departure.

The ministry denied that the Chen's trip to the US was in any way an effort at damage control with regard to reports of Keyser's involvement with Taiwanese intelligence agents, saying that Chen had decided to visit Grenada to express concern over the damage that Hurricane Ivan had recently caused in the Caribbean nation.

However, Lu admitted that given the lack of direct flights to Grenada, Chen would be making a stopover in the US which would put him in the US ahead of schedule. While Lu declined to comment on whether Chen would be meeting with any officials in the US, the timing of Chen's trip has raised eyebrows.

"Minister Chen decided to visit Grenada to show concern for our diplomatic ally. Also, our embassy there was also damaged by the hurricane," Lu said, stressing that the trip had not been arranged because of the Keyser accusations. Lu added that the ministry had also donated US$200,000 to help Grenada rebuild in the aftermath of the hurricane.

Lu explained that Chen is scheduled to host an annual foreign ministry conference on North American affairs in Baltimore tomorrow. The conference is expected to bring together the heads of all 13 Taiwan representative offices in the US and three in Canada. While the ministry refrained from confirming whether the conference would involve discussion on the Keyser allegations, it is believed that the topic will be given attention.

In addition, Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told reporters in Taipei County yesterday morning that the Keyser case was an investigation into a concealed trip to Taiwan, stressing that no evidence had been provided to verify allegations that intelligence had been leaked.

"Between Taiwan and the US, all dealings have been conducted in a public and transparent fashion. Taiwan would never violate US law," Su said, adding that Taiwan would fully cooperate with the US investigation.

"Intelligence reporting between the two nations has always been conducted in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Convention and Optional Protocols [1961]," Su said, "Taiwan and the US have always been on friendly terms."

Meanwhile, State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said on Friday that US Secretary of State Colin Powell talked with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) by telephone on Thursday but did not discuss the Keyser issue.

Ereli said that "they did not discuss Mr. Keyser's case," but talked about a draft resolution on Sudan that is currently being discussed by the UN Security Council and about how the US and China can work together in the context of the resolution to keep up the pressure on the government of Sudan and stop the atrocities being carried out there.

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