Sat, May 13, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chen returns from nine-day odyssey

`UNCRUSHABLE ROSES' After his long trip to Latin America, a defiant Chen Shui-bian said Taiwanese would never give up the fight for more recognition

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Supporters of President Chen Shui-bian gather at CKS International Airport to welcome Chen on his return yesterday from a trip to diplomatic allies in South and Central America.

PHOTO: CHU PEI-HSIUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) arrived home yesterday after a journey to Latin America filled with surprise twists and turns -- a trip he hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that successfully upheld the nation's dignity.

"Not only did we consolidate the friendship with our diplomatic allies, we also engaged in a wide range of substantive talks and were warmly received by non-allied countries. We've gathered an abundant harvest from this overseas visit, which has laid the groundwork for the expansion of Taiwan's future international participation," Chen said yesterday.

The president made the remarks immediately after his chartered plane touched down at CKS International Airport at 3:30pm yesterday.

Thousands of Chen's supporters, as well as political bigwigs including Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Yu Shyi-kun and a line-up of senior presidential advisers yesterday greeted the president at the airport.

Reversals

That warm reception came after a journey filled with dramatic reversals. Chen at the last minute rejected the US' offer to transit through Anchorage, Alaska after failing to secure longer, higher-profile visits to major US cities such as New York City or Los Angeles.

Instead, he made diplomatic advances by transiting through non-allied countries such as Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Tripoli, Libya and Batam Island, Indonesia.

The president said the point of his journey was to safeguard the country's dignity and strive for diplomatic breakthroughs.

"As a president representing Taiwan, I can't let Taiwan's dignity be undermined. We did not disappoint Taiwan and make it lose face ... no matter how great the pressure is, we will never give up," the president said.

Chen emphasized that the transit spat between the US and Taiwan would not hurt the future bilateral relations.

"Although we did not transit through the US, both Taiwan and the US have continued to have smooth communication, and have engaged in direct and immediate dialogue to reach a high level of consensus on the direction of future work and our common interests," the president said.

"The foundation of Taiwan-US relations remains strong, and was not affected by temporary disturbances and outside suspicions," the president stated yesterday.

During his visit to Latin America, Chen made a state visit to Paraguay and attended Costa Rican President Oscar Alias' inauguration ceremony. He met with US first lady Laura Bush and several US congressmen who expressed their support for Chen amid his diplomatic struggles.

Libyan stop

The biggest advance of Chen's trip was a surprise visit on Wednesday to Libya. Chen confirmed yesterday that he met with Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, and that the two signed a memorandum of understanding to establish mutual representative offices and to expand bilateral commercial relations.

The president yesterday said that Qaddafi had personally given him two reasons why Libya resisted China's opposition and insisted on extending to Chen and his delegation the highest diplomatic courtesy.

First, the Libyan leader said that China itself engaged in a great deal of business activity with Taiwan, and therefore it was implausible for Beijing to try to stop Libya from having contact with Taiwan.

Second, China's military maintains relations with Israel, which is considered an enemy of the Islamic world. This has annoyed Libya and only furthered its determination to engage with Taiwan, Chen said Qaddafi told him.

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