The Presidential Office yesterday stood behind Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) after he said that the government did not oppose Taiwan’s diplomatic allies and China establishing economic and trade offices in each other’s countries.
“Minister Ou’s remarks represent the government’s stance, and he communicated with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and national security agencies before making the remarks,” Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said while accompanying Ma on a trip in Panama City, where Wang made the remarks in response to a Chinese-language United Daily News report that the Presidential Office was not happy about Ou’s statement.
High-ranking officials in the Presidential Office said that Ou “was too candid about something that should otherwise remain obscure,” the paper reported.
Dismissing the report, Ou later said his remarks were consistent with Ma’s previous statement that the government would not oppose allies developing economic relations with China.
In Taipei, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers had mixed reactions to Ou’s remarks.
KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) suggested Ou step down.
“[His remark] not only revealed the president’s bottom line but also exposed the subtlety of cross-strait relations. The president should consider replacing the minister if he finds the minister’s performance unsatisfactory,” Wu said.
KMT Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴), a former foreign minister, said Ou’s remark should not be interpreted as a blunder but added that Ou should have been more cautious.
“His remark, on some level, reflected the [political] reality, but he should not have used the term ‘not against’ because this sounds like we are encouraging [our allies to set up trade offices in China],” Chiang said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers, on the other hand, were supportive of Ou’s remarks, saying there was nothing wrong with Taiwan’s allies also wanting to also establish missions in China.
“Pursuing dual recognition —‘one Taiwan, one China’ — has always been [the DPP’s] goal,” DPP Legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) said.
At a separate setting yesterday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) denied that Ou’s remark meant Taiwan was encouraging its allies to exercise “dual recognition.”
Chen said that so far China has set up trade offices in three of Taiwan’s Latin American allies: Haiti, Panama and the Dominican Republic. He said no official relations had been established between China and these countries.
The ministry would closely monitor the interactions between China and these countries, Chen said.
Earlier this March, Ou made a similar remark at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee. When fielding questions on whether Taiwan would break ties with El Salvador if it established ties with China, Ou said: “No.”
Ou’s remarks were interpreted by media as suggesting Taiwan might be open to dual diplomatic recognition of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
The Presidential Office later denied it, saying it would not recognize diplomatic ties between the nation’s allies and China.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JENNY W. HSU AND STAFF WRITER