Thu, Oct 27, 2005 - Page 1 News List

'Cheated' foreign minister offers to quit

STUNNEDMark Chen said his ministry was taken completely by surprise by Senegal's decision to recognize Beijing, as a top security official said ties with all allies are risk

By Chang Yun-ping and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Offering his resignation, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) yesterday said Taiwan had been cheated by Senegal for resuming diplomatic ties with China, but his ministry would watch closely for signs of other West African nations following suit.

Chen said he felt "cheated" over the development given that Senegal had "repeatedly promised" that China's economic activity in the country would not affect its diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

"For some time we've seen a significant number of Chinese people active in Senegal, yet Senegal repeatedly promised that economics and politics were separate issues and that it would not sever ties with Taiwan. They kept on making these promises. This time, we've really been cheated," he said.

The minister was speaking at yesterday's legislative Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee, where the focus of the discussion was on the diplomatic setback.

The loss of Senegal, whose economy is considered to be reasonably strong compared with other Western African states, generated concern among lawmakers that Senegal's switch to Beijing would encourage Taiwan's other allies in the region to do so too.

Taiwan now maintains diplomatic relations with 25 countries, of which Malawi, Sao Tome and Principe, Gambia and Burkina Faso are in West Africa.

The minister yesterday warned there was concern that Taiwan's entire roster of allies would succumb to Beijing's diplomatic clout.

But he said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would make every effort to preserve relations and reinforce communication with them.

Legislators from across party lines yesterday lambasted the ministry for not staying on top of the situation, and only knowing about the news after the Senegalese foreign minister signed the communique in Beijing at 6.30pm on Tuesday.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) asked why the ministry had been in the dark given that a letter from Senegalese President Abodoulaye Wade to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) regarding the matter had been written two days before the announcement.

"Why did we not know that they had already prepared this letter two days ago and that they had waited until they signed the diplomatic communique with Beijing before releasing this letter to us?" Yang asked.

In the letter, Wade said that "between countries, there are no friends, only interests."

Mark Chen admitted that his ministry was neither vigilant nor cautious enough in failing to receive prior warning to the severing of ties. He said he was willing to take full responsibility for the setback, and would offer his resignation.

However, the pan-green legislative caucuses yesterday lambasted Beijing, and called on former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰), who is currently in China, to lodge a protest.

"We solemnly condemn Beijing for exercising two-handed tactics," Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) said. "While [Beijing] celebrated the 60th anniversary of Taiwan's Retrocession Day, they deliberately picked this day that Japan ended its rule over Taiwan to steal another of our diplomatic allies."

Lai called on Lien to lodge a protest with the Chinese government and return to Taiwan immediately to express the indignation of the Taiwanese people.

"We are asking Lien to act like a retired vice president and stand up to China because he still receives a huge retirement pension from the taxpayers," Lai said.

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