Sat, Feb 04, 2006 - Page 1 News List

US to Chen: please stop the surprises

ADHERENCE The US State Department repeated its displeasure over possible changes to unification guidelines with a call for improved communication

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

A senior State Department official has called on Taipei to communicate fully with Washington to avoid a repetition of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) "surprise" Lunar New Year proposal to scrap the National Unification Council and unification guidelines and seek UN membership as "Taiwan."

James Keith, the department's special assistant for East Asian affairs, said he expected that Washington and Taipei would continue to operate very closely together in the future, "with no daylight between us in terms of our policy approaches."

Speaking to Taiwanese reporters at an impromptu press conference on Thursday after he made an appearance on Capitol Hill, Keith said that US policy toward Taiwan had not changed, "and we have every expectation that that will be the case in Taiwan as well."

Noting that communication between the two sides was very close, Keith said he was "gratified" by this.

"It's important that we use those channels to ensure there are no surprises between us, because these are issues that directly affect American interests, and therefore we need to be in close touch," he said.

The State Department is said to be angry that Chen put forward his proposals on UN membership and the unification council without telling Washington first. That would explain the department's sharp reaction on Monday when it took the unusual step of widely publicizing its reaction statement to Chen's speech, equating his speech with an effort to change the "status quo."

Keith, the department official most closely involved in Taiwan policy, said the department acted because "we felt it necessary to be absolutely clear about US policy ... We fully expect that the president and his government will continue to adhere to the status quo ... and that the kind of assurances that were provided in the past will continue to be honored."

The gap in communication that the department says occurred around the New Year speech is curious, considering that communication between the two sides has been closer and more open in recent years.

This is especially the case in Washington, where de facto ambassador David Lee Ta-wei (李大維) and other officials with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office are in regular contact with key US officials.

"We've heard from the Taiwan government just about every day this week, and last week and the week before," Keith said.

On Chen's proposal to seek UN membership under the name "Taiwan," Keith said only that US policy had not changed.

"Our expectation is that we'll stay in close alignment with the government in Taiwan on that and many other issues," he said.

Keith did not directly comment on the latest statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) on the issue, saying he had not seen Huang's remarks.

In response to the US rebuke, Huang said that Chen was merely suggesting that the government was considering scrapping the council and the guidelines because the council is covered by a legislative resolution that all ad hoc commissions without a legal basis be eliminated.

"The president is just reflecting the concerns of Taiwan's people," Huang said on Thursday.

"It was not Taiwan's intention to surprise the United States," he said. "If there are differences on both sides, we shall strengthen communication with the US authorities."

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