Taiwan adamant in fight for Chen to attend APEC

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Thu, Aug 23, 2001 - Page 4

Despite China's refusal to allow President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to attend the APEC summit in Shanghai in October, Taiwan's efforts to push for Chen's participation continue unabated.

In the US, Representative Gary Ackerman on July 24 submitted a House resolution "expressing the sense of Congress to encourage full participation" in the APEC forum by President Chen. The resolution is to be voted on in early September, sources said.

John J. Tkacik Jr, research fellow in China policy at the Asian Studies Center at Washington-based think tank the Heritage Foundation, argued in an article on Aug. 21 that China should allow Chen to attend the APEC summit as part of its effort to resume cross-strait dialogue.

"By denying Mr Chen a chance to attend the APEC summit, China is missing an historic opportunity to begin substantive dialogue with its neighbor across the Taiwan Strait," Tkacik said.

"The forum could begin a process of defusing a half-century of pent-up tension in one of the world's most dangerous flashpoints," Tkacik continued.

Tkacik said Taiwan's leaders are entitled to take part in the summit as "there is no regulation or memorandum barring Taiwan's democratically elected leader from attending."

The expert from the conservative think tank also endorsed the Ackerman Resolution, saying it could "provide a crucial push to break the stalemate between China and Taiwan."

The resolution acknowledges that Chen's participation in the Shanghai APEC summit would be a "constructive step" and a positive starting point for peaceful dialogue between China and Taiwan.

A foreign ministry official in charge of US affairs saw the Ackerman resolution as a "friendly gesture" made by pro-Taiwan forces on Capitol Hill.

"President Chen has reiterated many times that we are entitled to attend the APEC summit because it's our obligation and right as a legitimate member economy," the official said.

But the official claimed the resolution "had nothing to do" with the foreign ministry's related lobby in the US.

It's believed that Taiwan's de facto embassy in Washington has conducted related work to push for Chen's participation in the Shanghai summit.

Other lobbying channels in the US have also been tapped by private-sector figures including Lin Cheng-yi (林誠一), chairman of the Taipei-based Makoto Bank (誠泰銀行) and Chen's close ally.

In July, the US Department of Justice revealed that the US lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates renewed its contract with the Taiwan Political and Economic Research Institute (TPERI) for another year of lobbying.

Chen's attendance at the APEC summit enjoyed rather high priority during the extended contract between the firm and TPERI, which is funded by Lin and "ten of his good friends," a source at Makoto bank said.

Despite efforts to push for Chen's participation in the summit, some said it's unlikely that Chen could attend.

"It's APEC's established practice that participation in the summit is limited to certain levels of leaders from Taiwan. If China were to soften its attitude, one might expect to see some breakthroughs. But it's unlikely to happen," said Chao Wen-heng (趙文恆), research fellow at Taipei's APEC Study Center.

Taiwan's president, vice president, premier and vice premier have been barred from attending the APEC summit, which came into being in 1993 as the brainchild of former US president Bill Clinton. China has said it's out of the question for Chen to attend the Shanghai summit.

When asked in Shanghai by the Taipei Times in June to comment on Chen's willingness to attend the APEC summit, US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said it would be a "constructive step."