Representative to the US Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) yesterday said that the US was not notified in advance of the New Year’s Day flag-raising ceremony at Twin Oaks Estate in Washington, but said the ceremony did not require “approval” and was done according to “precedent,” adding that it had deliberately not notified the US “out of good will,” to allow the US to have the leeway to declare that it had not known about the event beforehand.
The raising of the Republic of China (ROC) national flag on New Year’s Day at Twin Oaks, currently the residence of the nation’s official representative to the US, but once that of ROC ambassadors to the US, has caused friction between the US and Taiwan, with the predictable protest from China.
The ceremony was initially reported to have been “the first in 36 years, since the flag was lowered in 1978, when Washington switched recognition to the People’s Republic of China” and to have received “the US’ permission in advance.”
Shen, speaking at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee meeting yesterday, said those reports had been mistaken, because the New Year Day’s flag-hoisting was not the first in the past 36 years, as the flag was raised at a party to celebrate Double Ten National Day last year.
Accusing “certain media” of “misreporting,” Shen added that there was no need for the office to secure the US’ “approval” beforehand, it or its “forgiveness” afterward, since “the Twin Oaks is our property, which the ROC government bought for US$2 million.”
However, Shen said he would continue to communicate with US officials on the matter, after lawmakers voiced concerns that the incident might incur retaliatory actions from the US, such as stalling ongoing trade negotiations or lowering the level of bilateral exchanges.
The representative railed against “certain media” over their reports citing “an [unnamed] official in US President Barack Obama’s administration” as saying that the action had undermined trust and hurt the Taiwan-US bilateral relationship.
Shen denied that the quoted official, who reportedly laid out seven points to delineate the Obama administration’s position and disapproval of the event, could represent Washington’s official position, underlining US Department of State spokesperson Jen Psaki’s remarks that “nothing has changed [concerning the bilateral relationship]” and contending that US policy officials he had talked to about the matter had expressed their understanding, and there has been “no repudiative comments from the US.”
However, Shen was informed by KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) of the latest remarks made by Psaki on Tuesday, which said the US is “disappointed with the action” and “the flag-raising ceremony violated [the two parties’] longstanding understanding on the conduct of [the Taiwan-US] unofficial relations.”
Lin nevertheless called the incident “a tempest in a teapot” and displayed a photograph during the meeting picturing the US national flag raised at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).
“How come they can raise the flag at the AIT, but we cannot at Twin Oaks?” he asked.
People First Party Legislator Thomas Lee (李桐豪) attributed the controversy to China, “without whose pressure there would not be any problem with our flag-raising ceremony in the US.”
“The Chinese government has failed to keep a sober mind on this issue,” Lee said. “If Beijing cannot even recognize the ROC flag, is it trying to push Taiwan toward [formal] independence?”
“There has already been a 318 [Sunflower] movement, and if Taiwanese continue to see this kind of repression from China [against Taiwan’s international space], another 318 can be expected,” Lee said.
Shen said pressure from the Chinese government is incessant and that it is the “degree” that matters.
“I’ve heard that they also protested against our flag-raising on Double Ten. The difference this time, I suspect, lies in that the local Chinese-language newspaper, in addition to running the flag-raising event as a headline, ran the story of me attending the chairman handover ceremony of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association,” Shen said, implying that overseas compatriots’ support had further riled the Chinese authorities.
Shen, facing Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers’ repeated inquiries, denied that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Security Council or the Presidential Office had any advance knowledge of the event.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrew Kao (高振群) said the ministry relies on first-line diplomatic officials’ judgement and expertise and fully backs their decisions.
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