Thu, May 04, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chen dissatisfied with US transit stop

NOT IDEAL Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang said the government was unhappy with the US offer for President Chen Shui-bian to stop over in Anchorage

By Charles Snyder and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS IN WASHINGTON AND TAIPEI

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) will embark on an eight-day state visit to Paraguay and Costa Rica this morning with transit stops both ways in Anchorage, ending weeks of haggling with the US government over where Chen would make his transit stops in the US.

The transit request was filed last Monday, three days after Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) concluded his US trip. Chen had originally planned to leave yesterday and was forced to postpone his departure until today.

Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) said yesterday the ministry was not satisfied with the final result, but did not want to make things more difficult for their "friend [the US]."

Special arrangement

"It is a special arrangement at a special time and such an arrangement will not become the precedent for the president's future stopovers in the US," he said.

"We understand that the US, as one of the world's leaders, is deeply involved with the issues of Iran's nuclear enrichment program, Darfur's refugee problem and North Korea's nuclear ambitions. We understand their position and consideration and are in favor of a peaceful resolution of those problems," he said.

Chen is scheduled to arrive in Paraguay today and to leave for Costa Rica on Sunday. Huang said he was not certain whether Chen would get off the plane during his two-hour transit stop in Anchorage. Chen is scheduled to return to Taipei next Thursday.

Huang declined to disclose why Chen had opted to stop in Anchorage rather than Hawaii or Los Angeles.

A US source has told the Taipei Times in Washington that US President George W. Bush had authorized Chen to stop in Honolulu, Hawaii, on his way to Latin America and in Anchorage, Alaska, on his return flight. Chen, however, is only allowed to rest and refuel and is not permitted to stay overnight in either city, the source said.

Huang dismissed speculation that the arrangement has anything to do with Chen's decision to cease the functions of the National Unification Council and the application of the National Unification Guidelines, saying that the controversy was over.

Huang also dismissed a media report claiming that Chen expressed his personal dissatisfaction to American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Stephen Young on Monday, insisting that he be allowed to make transit stops in New York or make no transit stops at all.

No unpleasantness

Huang said the media report was completely false and that no unpleasant conversations had taken place during the consultation process with the US government. He did, however, admit that Young had visited him on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

Huang said both sides had agreed to direct their attentions to long-term relations and to strengthen bilateral cooperation.

Commenting on Taiwan-US relations, Huang said they were "fundamentally on the sunny side."

Huang said he did not think the arrangement was a diplomatic setback because there had been little time for consultation with the US government over the issue.

Huang blamed Beijing for causing the postponement, saying that China was always working behind the scenes to suppress Taiwan's international activities.

"I don't think this time is an exception," he said.

In addition to voicing the government's firmest and strongest dissatisfaction with China, Huang said Taiwan would not succumb to pressure and the government would do its best to safeguard national dignity and improve the nation's presence on the world stage.

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