Association of East Asian Relations (AEAR) chairman Liao Liou-yi (廖了以) has resigned to help take care of his mother, the Presidential Office said yesterday.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) praised Liao’s contributions to consolidating relations with Japan and his dedication to the nation over the years he served as commissioner for the then-Taichung County, minister of the interior and Presidential Office secretary-general, the office said.
“Liao has developed great political experience by holding several key positions in central and local governments. With a mother and grandmother who are both Japanese, Liao has a profound connection with Japan. However, it was his humility and diplomacy that prompted President Ma to appoint him as AEAR chairman in February 2012 in the hope of improving ties between Taiwan and Japan,” the office said.
It praised Liao’s “remarkable work” at AEAR, including the establishment of the Taiwan-Japan Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) program, the signing of a memorandum of understanding on industrial cooperation and the inking of a mutual recognition agreement on conformity assessment of electrical and electronic equipment.
He also oversaw the signing of a fisheries agreement with Japan on April 10 aimed at ending a long-standing dispute over fishing in waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), the office said.
Under the deal, fishing vessels from both countries can operate in a large area within a designated zone near the islands, which Japan calls the Senkakus, without being subject to the jurisdiction of the other side.
A smaller area in the zone, where Japanese fishing vessels frequently operate, is under joint management by the two governments.
“Liao has tendered his resignation and his decision will be respected. Although his official resignation is pending a meeting of the AEAR’s board, President Ma intends to appoint him as a senior presidential adviser once his resignation is finalized,” the office said.
Despite the personal reason cited for the resignation, there has been speculation about Liao’s motives, including whether the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) secretary-general stepped down to prepare to run for mayor of Greater Taichung in next year’s elections.
He is from the powerful “red” faction in Greater Taichung.
Greater Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡自強) said Liao’s filial piety should be respected and not be twisted or questioned.
“The party [KMT] has its own primary system for elective posts and I welcome every potential candidate to take part in the primary election [for Taichung mayor],” said Hu, who is a KMT member.
Standing next to Hu as he answered reporters’ questions yesterday, Taichung Deputy Mayor Shyu Jong-shyong (徐中雄), who is Liao’s nephew, said the reasons for his uncle’s resignation were neither simple nor complicated.
Until Liao actually said he would be a candidate, no one was in a position to speak for him, the Chinese-language United Evening News quoted Shyu as saying.
There is also speculation that the resignation was the result of Liao’s tense relationship with the “Ma camp” and a feeling that his efforts for Ma’s campaign in last year’s presidential election were not recognized. The newspaper reported that Liao felt he was not trusted by the Ma camp after his requests to allocate KMT funds were repeatedly denied, even though he was the party’s secretary-general.
The reports said Liao felt aggrieved that his campaign efforts were only rewarded with a “nominal post” [the AEAR chairmanship] and he had only reluctantly taken the job out of respect for Ma.
He apparently submitted his resignation some time ago, but it was only accepted after the fisheries agreement was signed, the newspaper quoted sources as saying.
Meanwhile, National Security Council advisor Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進) has reportedly been picked to replace Liao, sources familiar with the matter said.
Lee has a master’s degree in economics from a Japanese university and has served as a KMT legislator and caucus whip. He handles Taiwan-Japan relations at the council, the sources said.
The government hopes that relations with Japan will continue smoothly under Lee, a source said.