Senior US government officials have made requests to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration that the nation’s representative to the US Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) be replaced over the controversial flag-raising ceremony at Twin Oaks Estate in Washington on Jan. 1, sources said.
Shen left Taipei for Washington yesterday, earlier than scheduled, to deal with the repercussions of the flag-raising event, sources said.
Sources said that US President Barack Obama’s administration would bypass Shen and discuss US-Taiwan business directly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Security Council in Taipei.
The flag-raising ceremony and the conferment of medals and orders to uniformed military personnel serving in the US led by Shen has met with US reaction more severe than Shen expected.
He likely further provoked the US to make a clearer public response when he fielded questions from lawmakers earlier this week, by calling the unnamed US officials criticizing the flag-raising “nobody” and vowing to continue flying the flag on special occasions in future.
Sources said that after Shen publicly declared the New Year’s Day flag-raising ceremony as a major diplomatic breakthrough, and published a statement and pictures through the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the US, the Obama administration made a seven-point statement on Monday morning disclaiming their knowledge or approval of the event.
The statement was announced by a senior official representing the Obama administration during an interview with the Liberty Times, the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper.
US Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki announced later the same day in a news briefing that the ceremony was “not consistent with US policy” and that the US did not know about the flag-raising in advance.
However, Shen fought back with harsh comments at the legislature, forcing the US to have the American Institute in Taiwan officially announce that Taiwan ensure that these kinds of things do not happen again, leaving no room for ambiguity for Shen or the Ma administration.
The public back-and-forths between the Taiwanese and US officials have now come to a temporary end, while closed-door negotiations continue.
Shen’s decision to fly the national flag has put the Ma administration in a bind. Since pan-blue supporters in the US and Taiwan lauded the act, replacing “patriotic ambassador” Shen would be denounced by supporters.
However, if Shen is snubbed by the Obama administration and unable to meet relevant US officials in the future, the office could be rendered obsolete, leaving Shen in a similar situation to former representative to the US Benjamin Lu (魯肇忠), who former US president Bill Clinton refused to interact with after his handling of former president Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) visit to the US in 1995.