Mon, Feb 27, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chen to chair NSC meeting over NUC

JUST A COINCIDENCE?The president could decide to abolish the controversial unification body as early as today, while two former senior US officials are en route

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) will hear a report from the National Security Council today on the proposal to scrap the National Unification Council (NUC) and unification guidelines., and could decide to do away with them as early as today.

National Security Council Secretary-General Chiou I-ren (邱義仁) said yesterday that the security council has completed its report on the president's proposal and that the president will chair today's council meeting. As far as when Chen will officially announce whether the unification council and guidelines will be scrapped, Chiou said that it was up to the president to decide.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday confirmed that two former high-ranking US officials will arrive in Taipei next month, but denied that their visit has anything to do with the recent controversy over Chen's proposal.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said yesterday that former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage and former deputy assistant secretary of State Randy Schriver will be in Taipei at the beginning of next month at the invitation of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.

Lu said that the pair's visit has nothing to do with Chen's proposal to scrap the unification council and guidelines because the trip was arranged a long time ago.

Lu made the remark in response to a media report quoting the Washington-based Nelson Report, which said that Armitage and Schriver will soon visit Taipei in a bid to explain to Chen the possible consequences if he does away with the council and guidelines.

Lu refused to confirm when Armitage and Schriver will arrive, saying that the details are still being arranged. Nor did he give any details about how long they will stay and whether they will meet with Chen or visit the National Security Council.

According to media reports, US National Security Council Asia specialist Dennis Wilder and the State Department's chief Taiwan staffer, Clifford Hart, traveled to Taipei earlier this month for meetings with Chen to try and convince him to drop plans to eliminate the unification council and guidelines.

The US State Department, however, has yet to fully confirm the trips.

Such trips have taken place in the past at times of particular strain in US-Taiwan relations. When Chen proposed holding a referendum in tandem with the 2004 presidential election, the US government sent Michael Green, then senior director for East Asian affairs of the US National Security Council, to Taipei in November 2003.

On the first day of the Lunar New Year, Chen said that the time is ripe to seriously consider whether to abolish the unification council and guidelines. He has said that he would like to see the security council come up with a report on the political and legal repercussions of the plan by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministry yesterday dismissed speculation that Taiwan's representative to Washington David Lee (李大維) is considering resigning due to the stress caused by the proposal to do away with the NUC and guidelines.

Calling the media's speculation "unethical," Lu quoted Lee as saying that "How can the commander-in-chief leave the battle field when the battle is still raging?"

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