Wed, Mar 13, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Officials mum over whether Chen has lobbied Mexico's Fox for APEC invite

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Government officials yesterday refused to comment on reports that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has written to his Mexican counterpart to secure his attendance at the APEC leadership summit to be held in Mexico this fall.

"I decline to make any comment," James Huang (黃志芳), spokesman for the Presidential Office, said yesterday.

Meanwhile, Katharine Chang (張小月), spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also had little to add yesterday.

"As an APEC member, Taiwan enjoys the same rights and obligations together with its counterparts in the grouping," Chang said. "The foreign ministry will try its best to secure the president's attendance at the summit in Mexico."

The nation's president, vice president, premier and vice premier have been barred from attending the APEC summit since the first meeting was held in 1993 in Seattle.

A high-ranking official yesterday, who declined to be named, said he believed the report that Chen had written Mexico's president was "fabricated."

The source said that government agencies, such as the Presidential Office, the National Security Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, looked into the matter and determined that the letter did not exist.

"Both the staffers handling the president's letters and the NSC member in charge of APEC-related affairs were in the dark with regard to the existence of the letter," the high-ranking official said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) also contacted the Presidential Office yesterday to inquire as to whether Chen had written to Mexico.

The news story, which was reported in Mexico, quoted an official at the Mexican foreign ministry as saying that Chen had sent the letter to Mexican President Vicente Fox.

In the letter, Chen urged Fox to invite him to attend the APEC summit in his capacity as the president of Taiwan, according to the report.

Taiwan was absent from the APEC leadership summit in Shanghai last year after China, the host country, refused to issue an invitation to former vice president Lee Yuan-tzu (李元簇), Chen's hand-picked envoy for the summit.

Some foreign ministry officials have expressed concern that China might pressure Mexico -- the host country for this year's APEC meetings -- to regard Taiwan's absence at last year's summit as an established practice and exclude Taiwan from future meetings.

The APEC informal leaders' meeting is scheduled to take place in Los Cabos, Mexico, from Oct. 23 to Oct. 24.

During the first APEC Senior Officials Meeting, which opened on Feb. 27 in Mexico City, Taiwanese officials said that Taipei should be able to participate at all levels of APEC this year, sources said.

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