Sat, Sep 17, 2011 - Page 1 News List

US official worried about Tsai: report

‘BLINDSIDED’:The DPP said that the comments by an anonymous US official quoted by the ‘Financial Times’ amounted to US interference in the presidential election

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

US supporters of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) are accusing US President Barack Obama’s administration of interfering with the Taiwanese elections.

This follows a report in the Financial Times that the US administration believes that a Tsai victory in January could raise tensions with China.

According to the British newspaper, a “senior US official” told it that after meeting with the DPP presidential candidate in Washington on Wednesday that “she left us with distinct doubts about whether she is both willing and able to continue the stability in cross-strait relations the region has enjoyed in recent years.”

The report came as a shock not only to Tsai and those traveling with her on a nine-day tour of the US, but also to analysts who have been following the trip closely.

Up until the Financial Times publication on Thursday morning, US government officials speaking in private had given the impression that the trip was going well and that they were pleased with what they had heard from Tsai.

“We have been totally blindsided,” one DPP supporter said.

There were immediate suspicions that the source of the story was an official with the White House-based National Security Council and not the US Department of State.

Among other closed-door -meetings on Wednesday, Tsai saw US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides and US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.

She left Washington on Thursday for Boston.

DPP officials “lodged concerns” with the US Department of State that by talking with the Financial Times in such a negative way about Tsai, the Obama administration was undercutting her and interfering in the Taiwanese election.

Asked directly at the department press briefing on Thursday afternoon if comments made by a US official had strayed into the area of interfering in the Taiwanese elections, spokesman Mark Toner read from what was clearly a prepared response.

“I can assure you that we strongly support Taiwan’s democracy and the will of the Taiwanese people to choose their leaders in the upcoming election,” he said. “Our only interest is in free, fair and open presidential elections — we don’t take sides.”

However, there was no denial that the anti-Tsai remarks had been made and within the US-Taiwanese community there was speculation that the interview given to the Financial Times was part of a deliberate move to support President President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

The Financial Times described the remarks as “surprisingly blunt.”

“During her visit to Washington, Ms Tsai appears to have failed to convince the administration that she would keep the improved relationship with China on track,” it said. “The US official said while she understood the need ‘to avoid gratuitous provocations’ of China, it was ‘far from clear that she and her advisers fully appreciate the depth of [Chinese] mistrust of her motives and DPP aspirations.’”

DPP aides who attended meetings with US officials in Washington said this ran directly counter to the reactions of US officials during and immediately after the meetings.

Referring to the comments printed by the Financial Times, Tsai’s international spokesperson, Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), said: “Such anonymous statements could be easily misread and manipulated in a way that would be considered an interference in Taiwan’s election.”

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