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Wed, Jan 10, 2001 - Page 4 News List

Tien intends to expand Taiwan's global influence

DIPLOMACY The foreign minister said at a three-day regional affairs conference that the country must find ways to increase its participation in international affairs

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Though Taiwan has been blocked from various multilateral forums in the Asian-Pacific region, it should do more to step out and expand its international influence, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tien Hung-mao (田弘茂) said yesterday.

"There is multilateral dialogue and there are cooperation mechanisms in the Asia-Pacific region, but Taiwan has either been excluded or enjoyed limited participation in them [due to pressure from China]. How to expand our room for participation under such a structural constraint is the point of what we should be striving for," Tien said yesterday, at the beginning of a three-day conference for Taiwan's diplomats and representatives from the Asian region.

Conclusions and agreements reached at the latest ASEAN informal summit -- from which Taiwan has been excluded from participation -- sparked extensive discussion among the participants at the conference, said Henry Chen (陳銘政), a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Developments on the Korean Peninsula, following the summit between North and South Korea last June were also discussed, Chen said. "Both issues drew quite an extensive discussion because these developments are key to the region."

At the end of the ASEAN summit, which concluded on Nov. 25 last year in Singapore, the 10 ASEAN countries and its North Asian counterparts including China, South Korea and Japan, announced the possibility of holding an annual East Asian Summit and having an East Asian Free Trade Zone.

The former, analysts said, would amount to the formalization of the present "ASEAN-plus-three," and the latter would comprise the markets of about 470 million people of Southeast Asia and 1.53 billion people in Northeast Asia.

Taiwan, however, has been prevented from participating in the regional project, a development that has already drawn misgivings from local analysts and foreign ministry officials.

"We really have to watch closely the development of ASEAN-plus-three, as it's the vindication of China's continuous effort to block our living space," Lo Fu-chen (羅福全), a representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan, told the Taipei Times at the end of yesterday's meeting.

Another key issue at the conference was an evaluation of the new US administration's policy toward the region, Lo said.

"Although US President-elect Bush described Japan as the US' partner in the region and dubbed China its strategic competitor during his campaign, one should also watch closely how his administration, once in office, adjusts its Asian-Pacific policy. Currently many think-tanks in Japan have been busy mapping out measures to cope with any of the likely developments," Lo said.

Tien said in his speech that it was likely Bush would shift the "cornerstone" of US security policy to bilateral ties with regional allies such as Japan and South Korea.

Taipei's 18 ambassadors and representatives posted throughout the region as well as officials from other government agencies attended yesterday's meeting.

Officials from the Ministry of National Defense and the Mainland Affairs Council also updated participants on the security of Taiwan and the current state of cross-strait relations yesterday, Chen said.

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