Foreign minister calls on ASEAN to include Taiwan

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sat, Jan 13, 2001 - Page 3

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should not permanently exclude a significant player such as Taiwan, and one of the feasible ways to start Taiwan's participation in the regional grouping is to get the nation involved in some "functional" ASEAN meetings, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tien Hung-mao (田弘茂) and Taiwanese scholars said yesterday.

Tien was delivering a speech to scholars participating in a seminar discussing ASEAN-Taiwan relations, and argued that Taiwan and ASEAN have shared interests in certain issues such as a peaceful solution to the South China Sea dispute and misgivings over China's rising military strength.

"We in the rest of Asia cannot but help be concerned about the intentions of the leaders in Beijing ... We cannot tolerate the aggressive use of force, for any reason, and we all need to communicate this fact in no uncertain terms to the PRC leadership," Tien said.

The minister said Taiwan's participation in the Asian Development Bank and APEC showed that Taiwan can be a "useful" contributor. He also added that ASEAN could thus make a valuable contribution to the region, "to the mutual benefit of all," by supporting Taiwan's participation in a wider array of regional mechanisms.

In the case of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), for example, one of the feasible options to get Taiwan involved was to invite Taiwan to take part in the "functional working groups" and the "track-two mechanisms" under the ARF, the minister added.

The ARF is considered as a regional security cooperation mechanism at the government level, but some have argued that the institution was not intended to be a military-security alliance, but rather a means to foster constructive dialogue and consultation on political and security issues of common interest and concern.

Chyungly Lee (李瓊莉), associate research fellow at the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University, offered a similar view in her paper presented at the international conference.

A "pragmatic" approach, Lee argued, was to introduce Taiwan's participation in some of the ARF's functional meetings of greater economic and human security concerns, such as the inter-sessional meeting on disaster relief and the ARF expert group meeting on transnational crime.

Lee also said the proposal for Taiwan's participation in the ARF process should not be seen as the nation's attempt to explore a solution to cross-strait tension. However, excluding Taiwan's participation not only violated the ARF's mission of building a more secure regional community, but also missed the possible contributions Taiwan could make in regional economic and human rights issues, she added.