Sun, Jun 04, 2006 - Page 1 News List

US wants Chen to clarify his position

QUESTIONS Although the US said Chen's decision to `abandon' non-constitutional authority was an `internal matter,' it hoped he would tell them what was happening

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The US has called on President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to clarify his decision to hand over some of his powers to Premier Su Tseng-cheng (蘇貞昌), but has expressed confidence that Taiwan's democracy is "strong and secure."

In a statement in response to queries from Taiwanese reporters in Washington, the State Department declined to make extensive comments on Chen's decision.

"This is an internal matter for the Taiwanese people," a department statement said, avoiding comment on Chen's move, which is likely to raise important constitutional questions in Taipei in coming weeks.

It was the Bush administration's first public reaction to the political turmoil that has enveloped Chen in recent days, including the insider trading scandals that have implicated his family members, the resignation of two of his top aides and the rising chorus of opposition politicians calling for Chen to quit.

"We are confident that Taiwan's democratic society is strong and secure and we anticipate that Taiwan's executive officials will clarify matters in keeping with Taiwan's constitution and laws,' the State Department said.

The department also implied it was concerned that Chen might do something rash to counter his political troubles.

"Our interest is in maintaining stability across the Taiwan Strait and seeing a democratic and prosperous Taiwan," the state department said.

Otherwise, it said, "the policy of the United States toward Taiwan remains the same."

The statement did not make reference to the problems Chen has faced since the beginning of the year, when he tried to eliminate the National Unification Council and guidelines without telling Washington first, reportedly blindsiding and angering the Bush administration and driving a wedge of distrust between Taipei and Washington.

Some observers said that wedge was seen when the Bush administration refused to give Chen a transit visa for the contiguous US states for his April trip to Latin America, and Chen retaliated by refusing to stop in the US at all.

Congress has been out of session this week for the annual Memorial Day recess, so congressional reaction has not been heard.

However, some reaction is likely next week, when lawmakers return to work.

The Washington Post carried a major story in its Friday edition saying that Chen is on "shaky ground."

It said Chen has been "gravely wounded by a string of political missteps and mounting corruption allegations against his family, undermining his leadership and raising doubts about the remaining two years of his term."

The story is certain to attract the attention of the lawmakers when they get back in town.

Some further insights into Washington's thinking may come Monday, when Taiwan's de facto ambassador to Washington, David Lee (李大維), holds his monthly "tea party" news conference with the Washington press corps.

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