Sun, Feb 19, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Officials deny US warning on NUC

NUC PROPOSAL Officials were responding to a report that quoted a US official as saying the president will have to bear the consequences if he does away with the NUC

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Presidential Office yesterday denied a local media report that a US official had warned Taiwan that it must shoulder all consequences if President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) scraps the National Unification Council (NUC).

Director of the Presidential Office's Department of Public Affairs Chen Wen-tsung (陳文宗) yesterday said that US-Taiwan communications are continuing and remain smooth, and that the Presidential Office had not received a warning message from the US.

Local Chinese-language daily the China Times yesterday quoted an unnamed senior Bush administration official as saying that Chen must shoulder all consequences if he does away with the NUC and moves toward independence.

"The consequences are across the board: domestic and international, cross-strait and Taiwan-US ties," the official was quoted as saying in the story.

The unidentified US official also said that Chen's statement "expressed a sense of direction," causing the US to feel that something has gone wrong with Chen's assurances that he would not seek independence for Taiwan, according to the report.

The US official was also quoted as saying that Washington and Taipei are still trying to close the gap between their positions but there has been no progress.

Officials from the Presidential Office said that so far it was not clear who the US official was or whether the official was in a senior position, and that the remarks were just the official's personal opinion.

Taiwan has employed multiple channels, both official and private, to communicate with the US since Chen made his Jan. 29 statements on abolishing the NUC and the unification guidelines.

The recent two-way communication did not include a warning to the Taiwanese leader about scrapping the NUC, a Presidential Office official said.

Mixed messages

* A Chinese-language daily quoted a US official as saying that Chen Shui-bian would have to take responsibility if he scraps the NUC.

* Doing away with the council will affect international, domestic, cross-strait and US ties the official was quoted as saying.

* In response, the Presidential Office said it had received no such warning from the US.

* However, a separate report said the comments had raised concerns in the Presidential Office, as Taipei was under the impression that it had allayed US concerns on the issue.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday also said it had not received such a message from the US.

However, it was understood that the newspaper report garnered significant attention in the Presidential Office yesterday, as it was presented in a question-and-answer excerpt from an interview, rather than a regular news article, which may sometimes contain the journalist's own view.

According to a story in another local Chinese-language paper, the United Evening Express, the Presidential Office -- as soon as the interview was published -- immediately contacted Taiwan's top representative in Washington David Lee (李大維) to learn the identity and position of the US official.

The China Times story raised concerns in the Presidential Office because it conflicted with Taipei's impression that the US' concerns regarding scrapping the NUC had been allayed over the past couple of weeks through intensive consultations with Washington and promises not to change the cross-strait status quo, the newspaper said.

Taiwan Solidarity Union caucus whip David Huang (黃適卓) said yesterday that the US currently needs China's support to handle the nuclear issue in Iran, the war in Iraq and the Six Party talks on North Korea, and that was probably why it would let certain officials speak to the media in order to suppress Taiwan's voice.

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