Wed, Jan 07, 2015 - Page 1 News List

US denies it knew of ROC flag-raising

FLAG FLAP:Following China’s ‘furious’ response, the State Department said no US government personnel attended the ceremony, and that relations remained unchanged

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in Washington

The Republic of China (ROC) national flag is raised on New Year’s Day at the Twin Oaks Estate in Washington — the former residence of ROC ambassadors to the US — for the first time since official Taiwan-US relations came to an end in 1979.

Photo: CNA

The raising of the Republic of China’s (ROC) national flag at a New Year’s Day ceremony at Twin Oaks Estate in Washington last week was “not consistent” with US policy, US Department of State spokesperson Jan Psaki said on Monday.

“We did not know about the Jan. 1 flag-raising at Twin Oaks in advance,” she said.

The statement — made in answer to a question at the daily press briefing — came as a surprise.

Representative to the US Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) was quoted following the flag-raising ceremony as saying he had notified the administration of US President Barack Obama in advance and was granted permission to raise the flag as long as it was not widely publicized.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in Washington referred questions about Psaki’s reaction to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei.

According to earlier reports, Beijing was “furious” about the flag-raising and lodged a formal objection.

It was believed to be the first time that the Taiwanese flag had been raised at Twin Oaks — the residence of the nation’s official representative to the US — since the US switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing 36 years ago.

Sources who closely monitor the Taiwan-US relationship told the Taipei Times on Monday they were “very surprised” by the State Department statement because it seemed “inconceivable” that TECRO would raise the flag without US permission.

“Why do it now? It doesn’t make any sense,” one source said.

He said the relationship was so “sensitive” and subject to such tight diplomatic protocols that nothing could be gained and potentially much goodwill could be lost by ignoring the agreed-upon rules.

Psaki said that the US remained fully committed to the “one China” policy, based on the three communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act.

“No US government personnel attended the event in any capacity,” Psaki said.

“Nothing has changed as it relates to our relationship,” she added.

A US reporter asked: “Are you objecting to a private ceremony at which there was — that some people raised the Taiwanese flag?”

“We just said the ceremony is not consistent with our policy. That’s it,” Psaki replied.

The reporter pressed: “Well, so what?”

Psaki said she had been asked for the US position on the flag-raising and was giving that position.

The reporter then asked: “If I raise the flag of Narnia over my house, that’s going to be inconsistent with US policy?”

There was laughter in the press room as Psaki answered: “We may talk about you, but I don’t know if I’ll have a US government comment on it.”

The reporter asked if the US government was involved “in any way, shape or form” in the raising of the Taiwanese flag at Twin Oaks.

“No, we were not,” Psaki said. “We didn’t attend. We didn’t know about it. That’s our specific comment.”

The reporter asked: “Can you not raise the Taiwan flag in the United States? Is that what you’re saying?”

“I don’t have anything more,” Psaki replied.

Finally, she was asked if China had made a protest and she said: “I’d point you to the Chinese on that.”

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