Tue, Mar 12, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Legislators seek details of foreign ministry budget

ISSUE OF TRUST While lawmakers demanded access to undisclosed details of the ministry's confidential budget, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien refused, saying the risk to national security is far too great

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) refused to disclose yesterday certain details of his ministry's confidential budget to lawmakers, saying to do so would be detrimental to the nation's diplomatic efforts.

Legislators had asked Chien to supply details on how the ministry spends its money abroad.

But the foreign minister refused to oblige, saying it could create envy among the recipients of financial aid and harm diplomatic relations.

"We need to reserve details of some items that can affect our work on the diplomatic front," Chien told reporters during a break from the closed-door meeting of the legislature's Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee.

Chien said if the ministry were to disclose details of its confidential budget, that would make it easier for China to block the nation's diplomatic efforts.

In addition, Chien said, revealing details of the confidential budget could create envy among Taiwan's diplomatic allies that receive aid from Taipei.

DPP Legislator Parris Chang (張旭成) and KMT Legislator Sung Kauo-hwa (孫國華) backed Chien, saying not a single NT dollar from the confidential budget should be open to the legislature's scrutiny.

But other lawmakers pshawed that notion, saying the ministry's financial report yesterday lacked substance.

Sisy Chen (陳文茜), one of three conveners of committee, said the foreign minister also refused to disclose details on how much of the money that has been lent to diplomatic allies has not been recovered.

Chen also urged foreign affairs officials to have a bit of trust in lawmakers, saying not every legislator would divulge confidential information to the media.

But Chen's colleagues later in the day appeared to prove themselves untrustworthy.

A legislator disclosed to reporters recent attempts to seek new diplomatic allies -- an issue normally deemed top secret.

"I asked the director general in charge of African affairs whether they are working hard to seek new diplomatic allies now that Taiwan only has eight in the African region," a legislator said.

"He said the ministry is now in touch with four to five countries," the legislator said.

But the disclosure -- reported by a local Chinese-language newspaper late yesterday -- upset Chien.

"Minister Chien was rather displeased," said a DPP legislator, who declined to be named. "He said it was supposed to be a confidential meeting and the disclosure would make mutual trust between the ministry and lawmakers rather difficult."

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