The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) yesterday dismissed allegations that Washington favors the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in next year's elections, following the leak of an alleged meeting between AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt and KMT vice presidential candidate Vincent Siew (
AIT press officer Lawrence Walker declined to comment on the private meeting between Burghardt and Siew, saying that the message that Burghardt wanted to covey to Taiwan was made clear at his press conference on Dec. 11.
"We have no preferred candidate in this election," Walker said. "We support Taiwan's democratic processes."
Burghardt said at his press conference last week that the US government was prepared to work with either Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) or KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
"We have no preferences between the two," the AIT chief said.
"Regardless of who wins, he deserves to be his own man. He will have a chance to come up with new ideas of how to deal with cross-strait relations. He shouldn't be boxed in by statements that people make now or actions that they take now," he said.
The US government has given the same message to Beijing, he said, and asked the Chinese not to "overreact" or "do stupid things."
Walker refused to comment on whether the US was aware Burghardt and Siew's conversation would be made public and whether he had read the accounts of the meeting in local newspapers.
"I can't be drawn any further on that," he said. "That's what we've been asked to say."
DPP Legislator Sandy Yen (莊和子) told Chinese-language papers, including the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) on Friday about the meeting. Yen said the two men met for an hour on Dec. 8, the same day Burghardt arrived in Taipei for a four-day visit.
During his stay, he also met President Chen Shui-bian (
Some local newspapers have published the alleged minutes of the meeting. Those minutes, which have not been confirmed by either AIT or the KMT, seem to suggest that the US favors the KMT in the March presidential election.
Meanwhile, Chen said that "the whole world will change" if the DPP-proposed referendum seeking UN membership under the name "Taiwan" passes next year. He reiterated that Taiwan is not a part of China nor a province of the People's Republic of China.
"The 23 million people of Taiwan deserve to have a seat at the UN and the international community has come to realize that Taiwan and China are two different countries on either side of the Taiwan Strait," he said while meeting a religious group at the Presidential Office yesterday morning.
The group will participate in a campaign to drum up support for the DPP-proposed referendum.
In related news, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that differences between Taiwan and the US over the proposed referendum on UN membership had not affected overall bilateral relations.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Tzu-pao (楊子葆) told the Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee in the legislature that bilateral relations have been good, except for differences over the elections next year as well as the referendum initiated by the DPP.
Hsieh spokesman Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) said last night that if Siew had told Burghardt that the KMT had insisted on adopting the two-step voting system because it would hinder the DPP's UN referendum, it would be an international scandal because such a discussion with a US official would hurt Taiwan's interests and help China.
He said that if this was what had happened, then Ma and Siew should withdraw from the presidential race.
At a separate setting, DPP caucus whip Wang Tuoh (王拓) said Ma and Siew had sold out Taiwan at the meeting.
Wang said Ma and Siew should publish the contents of the meeting and apologize for it.
Wang said that the two KMT candidates were likely attempting to sell out Taiwan, keep Taiwan isolated internationally and please the authorities in China.
Meanwhile, Chen said in an interview shown on FTV last night that the alleged minutes of the Burghardt-Siew meeting revealed the real reason for the KMT's backing of the two-step voting process. The KMT wanted to block the referendum, protect its stolen assets and oppose Taiwan entering the UN, he said, and this showed its anti-democratic nature and was a real "dirty trick."
Chen also flatly denied the possibility that he would declare martial law or delay the elections, saying he would never repeat such an historical mistake.
Additional reporting by CNA
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