Fri, Jun 15, 2018 - Page 1 News List

MAC reportedly scheduling US visit for minister

THE FULL PICTURE:The trip is meant to give US officials and academics a Taiwanese view of cross-strait relations after Chinese officials visited last month

By Nadia Tsao and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON, and staff writer

Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chen Ming-tong, right, and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu, left, attend the dedication of the American Institute in Taiwan’s new compound in Taipei on Tuesday.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) is to make a three-day visit to Washington next month, during which he is expected to meet with White House staff and senior members of the US Department of State, sources in Washington said.

The visit would be the first visit to the US by the head of the council since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in 2016. The last council minister to visit Washington was Andrew Hsia (夏立言) in July 2015, during then-president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration.

Sources in the diplomatic corps, who requested anonymity, said that Chen’s visit would give the US a greater understanding of the cross-strait situation.

Chen is scheduled to deliver a speech at the Heritage Foundation during his trip, the sources said.

Washington is under the impression that China is seeking to change the “status quo,” and given Beijing’s lack of intention to conduct official talks with Tsai’s administration, its policy to exert pressure on Taiwan is likely to continue, they said.

During US-China talks late last month in New York, Chinese officials, including Taiwan Affairs Office Deputy Director Chen Yuanfeng (陳元豐), told US officials and academics that Beijing’s conclusion was that Tsai has been changed by the Democratic Progressive Party’s pro-independence faction, the sources said.

We have been watching since Tsai’s inauguration to see if she could change the party or if she would be changed by it, Chen Yuanfong reportedly said at the talks, adding that chances to ease cross-strait relations were slim.

The Chinese delegation also voiced concern about Taiwan lowering its referendum threshold and said a petition to change the name of Taiwan’s team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics could challenge Beijing’s redline, the sources said.

An amendment passed in December last year to the Referendum Act (公民投票法) lowered the legal voting age from 20 to 18 and slashed the thresholds for initiating, seconding and passing referendums.

Pro-independence groups in February submitted a referendum proposal seeking to change the nation’s name to “Taiwan” for the Tokyo Games.

However, the US officials and academics were not impressed by the Chinese statements, saying there was not enough proof that Tsai would seek to change the “status quo” or would take concrete action on Taiwanese independence, the sources said.

Asked about the reported trip, council spokesman Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) said an announcement would be made when the arrangements are finalized.

The council has been entrusting local and US think tanks with organizing academic forums on cross-strait ties and Taiwan-US-China relations, which have been customarily attended by the council’s minister or vice ministers, Chiu said.

“Such forums would allow concerned parties to better understand the government’s policy and prompt them to attach greater importance to cross-strait stability,” Chiu added.

Additional reporting by Stacy Hsu

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