Thu, Dec 23, 2004 - Page 1 News List

AIT signs 99-year lease for new site

CLOSER TIES The American Institute in Taiwan and Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office will both move to Neihu, although when remains unclear

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen raises a glass to AIT Director Douglas Paal to celebrate the lease agreement on a Neihu site for the US mission in Taiwan.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Those wishing to visit the de facto US mission in Taiwan will in future have to travel to the outskirts of Taipei City, as the representative office yesterday announced plans to relocate to Neihu (內湖).

"Our current facility ... is a bit old and shabby-looking. We have literally run out of space," American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Douglas Paal said yesterday at the signing ceremony for a 99-year lease of the new site. The AIT is the US representative office in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

The AIT, along with the headquarters of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the US, will be moving to what used to be the Taipei City Driver's Training Center on Jinhu Road in Neihu. The new site is slated to be roughly 2.6 hectares in size and cost around US$160 million. Although reports in the Chinese-language media claimed that the move will take place before 2008, the AIT yesterday refrained from giving a specific date.

The deal was inked yesterday afternoon at a lease-signing ceremony by Paal and TECRO Director General John Chen (陳忠), with AIT Deputy Director David Keegan and his counterpart at TECRO, Jacqueline Liu (劉姍姍), acting as witnesses.

In light of the recent attention given to remarks that outgoing US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had made indicating that the US is not necessarily required to defend Taiwan in the event of an attack from China, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) moved to portray the construction of the new office as a sort of antidote to the remarks from Washington.

"[This is a] perfect indication of solid ties and suggests further development of ties between Taiwan and the US," Chen said yesterday.

However, Chen also said that Armitage's remarks did not indicate a shift in US policy.

Paal echoed Chen's sentiments yesterday, calling the project a "milestone in relations between the peoples of Taiwan and the United States, one that has been in the making for over 10 years."

In response to questions from reporters yesterday about whether the new AIT facility had been chosen as a means of improving security, AIT spokeswoman Dana Shell-Smith said that the project had been in the works for some time and was not new.

She added that the building has not yet been designed. The California-based architecture firm Moore, Ruble and Yudell has been commissioned to design the new facility.

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