Leaders around the world expressed condolences to the victims of yesterday's devastating earthquake, with many countries also offering assistance in ongoing relief efforts.
Absent from those offering assistance, however, was the UN, which could do little since it does not recognize Taiwan, a UN relief official said.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said all it could do was to pass on information about the quake. To do more would require the Chinese government to request assistance on the behalf of Taiwan, which both it and the UN consider to be a province of China.
PHOTO: CHUNG KUO-WEI, LIBERTY TIMES
A green light from the Beijing authorities would enable more countries to respond, OCHA official Rudolf Mueller said. "We are awaiting China's official position indicating it would welcome assistance."
Other countries which abide by a "one China" policy recognizing only Taiwan have not been so squeamish diplomatically .
US President Bill Clinton was the first one who extended his condolences to Taiwan and pledged to provide US aid to cope with the catastrophe.
"Our thoughts are with all of those who have suffered losses and who may still be in need of assistance," Clinton said in a statement issued from the White House.
Clinton said the US was "in touch directly with Taiwan authorities" to determine what assistance the US could offer.
Vice Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (
Japan said yesterday it was sending more than 100 rescue workers to Taiwan and would provide US$500,000 in aid.
Thirty-four rescuers from Japan's maritime safety agency and police and fire-defense agencies left Japan for Taiwan yesterday evening, according to the foreign ministry, while another 37 rescue workers were to leave late yesterday night. Another 35 were to leave for Taiwan this morning.
Singapore sent a team of 39 rescue workers yesterday, and Seoul's foreign ministry announced the dispatch of a 60-member rescue team.
Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry dispatched a 76-man team, and a 15-member team from the Turkish non-governmental search and rescue association AKUT also left for Taiwan yesterday.
Meanwhile, Japan's Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, South Korean Prime Minister Kim Jong Pil and Pope John-Paul II sent messages of condolence.
China also sent condolences and offered assistance, though as of press time it had not approached the UN on Taiwan's behalf, nor was there any indication that Taipei would wish it to do so.
President Jiang Zemin (
"We are willing to offer any possible assistance to alleviate quake-caused losses," Jiang said.
Jiang's pledge of assistance comes at a time of heightened tension between Beijing and Taipei following President Lee Teng-hui's(
Su Chi, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, said yesterday that Jiang's remarks had helped the worsening ties between Taiwan and mainland China, and he expressed hope that they would contribute to a positive development of bilateral ties.
Analysts said yesterday that offers of humanitarian aid might bring a thaw to the current cross-strait atmosphere.
"Jiang's statement was a good approach to modify China's image, especially when it comes after Lee's `two-state' model announced on July 9. Starting from the humanitarian aid basis, at least, it could give some positive upswing to cross-strait ties,'' said Lee Deng-ker (
"If Lee can react in a friendly manner to Jiang's offer it might be a good opportunity to ease the current cross-strait tensions,'' he added.
"Once the interaction between the cross-strait leaders attracted press attention, it could become a focus in the international community.''
Lin Bih-jaw (
"We need to further deliberate all the consequences, so we can't ask President Lee to issue any statement right away,'' Lin said.
"Jiang's declaration was mainly aimed at helping our damage-control. Except to express my appreciation, I am reluctant to make other comments at the moment,'' he said.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (
Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Henry Chen (
French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder also expressed sympathy and support for Taiwan.
Chirac "addressed a message of sincere sympathy and condolences to all the victims of this catastrophe and their families," his spokeswoman Catherine Colonna said.
"France is following the situation closely and is ready to provide the Taiwanese people with the support and emergency aid they may need," she added.
In Berlin, Schroeder expressed his "deep sympathy" and his "deep compassion to the quake victims and their families," government spokesman Uwe-Karsten Heye said.
Offers of help were also received from Germany, Switzerland, Britain, Spain, Israel and Thailand.
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