Thu, Jul 24, 2003 - Page 3 News List

President denies his aide will talk referendums in US

AGENCIES , TAIPEI

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday described his top aide's trip to the US as an important "journey of communication."

Chen was referring to the current visit to Washington by Presidential Office Secretary-General Chiou I-jen (邱義仁). Chiou, heading a delegation composed of government officials and legislators, left for the US Tuesday.

Speaking at a news conference held at CKS International Airport following first lady Wu Shu-chen's (吳淑珍) return from a high-profile European tour, Chen said he had high expectations for Chiou's US trip.

Chen debunked media speculation that Chiou's visit was aimed at seeking US understanding of his administration's stance on certain specific issues, such as its plan to hold a referendum to decide whether to continue construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

"The speculation is unfounded. There is no preset agenda for Chiou's talks with [George W.] Bush administration officials," Chen said, adding that the two sides will exchange views on a broad range of topics of mutual concern.

Both Taiwan and the US expect to boost bilateral ties through Chiou's visit, Chen said.

As a matter of fact, he went on, similar "journeys of communication" were conducted frequently in the past.

Members of Chiou's mission include Ke Cheng-heng (柯承亨), deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council; Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂); and legislators Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) and Chen Chung-hsin (陳忠信).

Media reports said all the delegates are Chen's most trusted confidants in diplomatic and China affairs. The reports claimed that Chiou's visit is part of the government's desperate efforts to stabilize relations with the US.

The US has expressed its concern over the referendum plans amid speculation that the public consultation system might eventually be applied to a controversial vote on the nation's future.

Chiou was expected to meet with White House Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and other senior Bush administration officials.

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