Sun, Oct 31, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Legislators scrap Diaoyutais tour

ABOUT ‘FACE’:While weather was cited as the reason for calling off the tour, sources said MOFA officials were ‘scared half to death’ it would jeopardize relations with Japan

By Shih Hsiao-kuang  /  Staff Reporter

The legislature’s Internal Administration Committee’s plan to inspect the contested Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) on Nov. 4 has been temporarily called off, with bad weather conditions cited as the primary concern.

According to the committee chairperson, Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU) Legislator May Chin (高金素梅), the decision was made at the suggestion of the coast guard after the recent inclement weather. She added that another consideration was the government’s current focus on disaster relief work following the destruction of sections of the Suhua Highway during Typhoon Megi.

A new date would be set once the relief effort has been completed, she said.

Although the weather was given as the reason for postponing the inspection tour, sources suggested that the real reason was that the pan-blue camp has mobilized every hand to avert a possible crisis ahead of the upcoming special municipality elections, especially because the consequences of the tour are unpredictable. Another reason was the fact that former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe is visiting Taiwan today, the sources said.

The committee on Oct. 21 said it would make an inspection tour of the islands before reviewing the Coast Guard Administration’s (CGA) budget for next year. Chin said at the time that the committee members would cross the temporary demarcation line and maybe even land on one of the islands.

While Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said he respected the committee’s decision after learning of the committee’s plan, sources said that top officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) were “scared half to death” as such action could directly jeopardize relations between Taiwan and Japan.

Sources said that after the committee announced its decision, the Japanese government contacted Taiwan’s Association of East Asian Relations (AEAR) several times via Japan’s Interchange Association to request that the AEAR relay the Japanese government’s concerns to the Taiwanese government.

MOFA is feeling extra pressure because Abe is in Taiwan this week visiting as a member of the Japan-ROC Diet Members’ Consultative Council, better known as the Nikkakon, together with a dozen other Diet members.

Because the planned inspection by the committee was an official inspection tour arranged by the legislature — with requests for assistance from the coast guard, MOFA and the Ministry of the Interior — the Executive Yuan found it difficult to refuse the committee, the sources said, adding that top officials in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the government regarded the planned inspection tour as “a big deal.”

The KMT’s legislative caucus held a meeting on Monday where it was decided that the committee’s inspection tour would have to be handled with the utmost care in the run up to next month’s special municipality elections to avoid any unnecessary conflict or clashes, sources said.

Sources added that on Wednesday evening, the secretary-general of the KMT’s legislative caucus, Lin Tsang-min (林滄敏), met over dinner with Chin and NPSU Legislator Lin Pin-kuan (林炳坤), who is -taking over as committee chair from Chin this week. Cabinet Secretary-General Lin Join-sane (林中森) also took part in the meeting to discuss the matter.

KMT Policy Committee Director Lin Yi-shih (林益世) brought along several members of the KMT’s legislative caucus, as well as the deputy director of the Policy Committee, to give the NPSU a healthy amount of face, sources said.

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