Sat, May 06, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chen vows to build nation's foreign ties

BRAVERYThe president said he had decided not to go to Alaska because he wanted to build diplomatic relations worldwide. US officials said the move did not harm ties with Taiwan

By Chang Yun-ping and Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTERS IN TAIPEI AND WASHINGTON , WITH CNA

Peter Wang, head of the 908 Taiwan Republic Campaign, writes expletives on a poster of US President George W. Bush in front of the American Institute in Taiwan yesterday, in protest at the choices the US gave President Chen Shui-bian for a transit stop on his way to diplomatic allies Paraguay and Costa Rica.

PHOTO: CNA

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) pledged yesterday to continue to seek to expand Taiwan's foreign relations and safeguard the country's dignity.

"To this end, Taiwan needs to adapt itself quickly to every changing circumstance and become braver despite frustration," Chen told a group of Taiwanese reporters on his airplane shortly before talking off from the Schipol airport in Amsterdam for Asuncion, Paraguay.

The president said that these reasons lay behind his decision not to stop over in Anchorage, Alaska, en route to Paraguay during his Latin American trip.

Chen's plane made a brief stop in the capital of the Netherlands for refueling.

"We must find our way resolutely and fearlessly with no regard for the great pressure we are facing," Chen said.

Several hours before that, the president had made a transit stop in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, where he engaged in wide-ranging talks with senior politicians.

Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳), who is accompanying Chen, said that the president had originally planned to stop over in Beirut and then fly to the Dominican Republic for refueling before continuing to Asuncion.

But the plan to stop in Beirut was blocked owing to China's opposition, forcing the president to change his plan and stop in Abu Dhabi, Huang said.

As the high temperature in Abu Dhabi meant that the president's plane could not be completely refueled for safety reasons related to the increased volatility of the fuel, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs applied for permission from Dutch officials for a refueling stop in Amsterdam, Huang said.

He said that the plane would fly directly from Amsterdam to Asuncion without stopping in the Dominican Republic.

Ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said in Taipei yesterday that Chen and his entourage were scheduled to arrive in Asuncion at 9:38pm last night. Chen is expected to stay in the city for two days for a state visit before heading to Costa Rica on May 7.

Chen departed Taipei on Thursday for a two-nation Latin American visit. Taipei had previously requested that he be allowed to stop over in San Francisco and New York during the trip. The request was turned down by the US government, which offered to allow Chen to stop in Honolulu, Hawaii, or Anchorage for transit.

The diplomatic twist in which Chen abandoned Anchorage and opted for other locations for transits yesterday had sparked concerns over the future of Taiwan-US relations.

A US State Department spokesman said that Chen's decision not to stop over in Anchorage would have no ill effect on Washington's relations with Taipei.

Asked by a reporter whether Chen's rejection of an Alaska stopover would have a "chilling effect" on bilateral relations, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: "I would expect that it would not have any effect."

Lu also denied that the spat over the choice of a US stopover location had compromised relations with the US.

"An individual incident will not have much of a negative impact," Lu said.

"Taiwan is a major economy in the international community, sharing the responsibility of maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region with other countries. The role Taiwan plays conforms to the strategic interests of the US in the Western Pacific," Lu said.

Lu said that although Chen did request a stopover in Anchorage before his departure for Paraguay, he had changed his mind and "informed the US of the decision at an appropriate time, and the US understands the situation."

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