Tsai embarks on US trip

RIVAL ITINERARIES::The DPP chairperson said Ma should remember that it is he who is running in the presidential election, not his campaign office director, King Pu-tsung

By Rich Chang and William Lowther  /  Staff Reporters in Washington and TAIPEI

Tue, Sep 13, 2011 - Page 1

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) left for the US yesterday in an effort to drum up support for her presidential campaign.

At Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Tsai said the aim of her visit was to exchange opinions with people in the US and to establish a communication mechanism with the US administration.

If the DPP returned to power next year, the party and Taiwan could have a relationship of mutual confidence and mutual benefit with the US, and both countries could cooperate in maintaining stability in the Asia-Pacific, she said.

Tsai’s running mate, DPP -Secretary-General Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全), as well as several DPP officials, saw her off at the airport.

Tsai is expected to meet US Department of State officials, including US Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Thomas Nides and US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, to discuss Taiwan-US and Taiwan-China relations.

Asked to comment on an interview that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election campaign office executive director King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) gave to Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television, in which King talked about the possibility of Ma visiting China, Tsai said: “A president visiting China is a very serious matter, which should be discussed by Ma himself, not a campaign official. It is a breach of government protocol.”

King, who is on a six-city tour of the US, told the TV channel that Ma did not rule out a visit to China if he were re-elected in January. Ma would make the visit in his role as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairperson, King said.

“Once the two sides have developed a tacit understanding and are capable of setting aside disputes and solving bilateral issues in a practical manner, the likelihood of this and addressing further issues improves,” King said.

“The two sides may hold more dialogues on daily affairs, culture, sports, the economy and even politics,” he said.

Given King’s controversial actions and remarks on his US trip thus far, Ma should restrain King, Tsai said.

“Mr King has recently talked about many important national affairs. I want to remind President Ma that he is running in the presidential election, not King Pu-tsung,” Tsai said.

However, Ma’s spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi (范姜泰基) played down King’s comments.

“As of now, there’s no such plan,” he said of the suggested cross-strait trip.

Tsai is scheduled to spend three days in Washington, where she will meet academics from several think tanks and members of Congress, as well as attend fundraising dinners organized by overseas Taiwanese communities. She will then make a short trip to Boston to give a speech at Harvard University.

After Boston, Tsai’s delegation will travel to New York City for a fundraising dinner organized by overseas Taiwanese before moving on to Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles, which boast some of the largest Taiwanese communities in the US.

Meanwhile, King rebuffed accusations by the DPP over the weekend that his US trip was meant to “sabotage or ambush” Tsai’s visit. He said the very -suggestion was “childish.”

King told a press conference in Washington that the KMT delegation, headed by Deputy Legislative Speaker Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權), was making the visit at the request and invitation of Taiwanese supporters of the KMT in the US.

When these KMT supporters heard that Tsai was going to visit the US, they wanted Ma to send a delegation as well so that they could express their support.

“We are here in response to the requests of people who live here,” King said.

King said there was no question of a competition with Tsai to see who could meet the more senior US officials. The KMT delegation just wanted to meet officials in charge of Asian affairs to explain Ma’s cross-strait policies and his push for a “win-win situation,” King said.

The KMT delegation arrived in Washington three days ahead of Tsai and will visit the same cities on her itinerary: Washington, New York, Boston, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. While the schedules are very similar, these cities do have large Taiwanese emigre populations.

At Harvard on Thursday, King and Tsai will appear within two hours of each other. Both are expected to hold talks with Nides and Campbell.

“We want to tell our American friends that the policies of President Ma are more pragmatic than those of the DPP,” King said.

“We are moving toward a better future. The Ma government has spared no effort to improve all the domestic and economic situations and cross-strait relations,” he said.

Tseng played down the controversy over US beef imports and indicated that it would not be a major issue in the KMT delegation’s talks in Washington.

When asked if Ma would visit China if he were reelected, King said as long as Taiwan’s sovereignty and dignity were not undermined, anything “might be possible or be discussed.”

He said that he had been quoted “out of context” in reports that Ma would make such a visit and he refused to confirm whether Ma would go or not.

Another war of words between the DPP and KMT erupted yesterday over reports that Taiwanese businesspeople working in China might receive discounted air tickets to return home to vote in January’s presidential and legislative elections.

Before leaving Taipei, Tsai said determining the motivation for the discounted fares was crucial. If someone were subsidizing the discounts, then vote buying could be involved and law enforcement officials should handle the matter, she said.

However, KMT Culture and Communication Commission Director Chuang Po-chun (莊伯仲) said the discount airfare scheme was being promoted by China-based Taiwanese business associations of their own accord.

“It has been routine for many years for the associations to take the initiatives to negotiate package deals for cheaper airline tickets,” he said.

It was beneath Tsai’s dignity to make groundless vote-buying accusations against Ma and made her look like she lacked common sense, Chuang said.

Not all businesspeople based in China would vote for the KMT, Chuang said.

Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan, AFP and CNA