Wed, Jan 05, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Chen meets Lee for lunch as Cabinet rumors swirl

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

With speculation mounting on the makeup of the next Cabinet, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday conferred with former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) at the Presidential Office for the first time since last month's elections.

Presidential Office spokesman Chen Wen-tsung (陳文宗) confirmed Lee was at the Presidential Office yesterday, on Chen's invitation. The three-hour lunch meeting was private.

The meeting, like Chen's meeting with Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) on Monday, ignited media attention because of the expected vacancy in the premier's post. Premier Yu Shyi-kun and all Cabinet members will resign in a customary post-election ritual after the current legislative session concludes on Jan. 21.

Rumors have circulated for the last couple of weeks about the possibility of Chen Shui-bian forming a coalition Cabinet with one or more opposition parties. Senior government officials, however, including Yu himself, have been tight-lipped about the pending reshuffle.

Chen Wen-tsung yesterday said nothing relating to the premier's post nor personnel issues were discussed during the president's meeting with Lee.

It remains unclear if Lee, the spiritual leader of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), the Democratic Progressive Party's political ally, has made any recommendations on the makeup of the new Cabinet.

Chen Wen-tsung said that during the meeting Lee talked about his just-completed trip to Japan.

Lee returned on Sunday from a seven-day "sightseeing trip" to Japan. He told a crowd of well-wishers upon arrival at CKS In-ternational Airport that Taiwan-Japanese relations had been advancing quietly and that bilateral ties were now in the best shape since the two countries severed formal diplomatic relations in 1972.

Chen also exchanged views with Lee on the domestic political situation and on how to improve coordination with the opposition camp, Chen Wen-tsung said.

In his New Year's address, the president had highlighted reconciliation, consultation and dialogue between the ruling and the opposition parties as important goals.

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