Wed, Nov 05, 2003 - Page 3 News List

US officials regard Chen's remarks as appropriate

NO PROBLEM The State Department rejected Chinese complaints about the president's itinerary in New York, and said they felt his political comments were justified

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

President Chen Shui-bian and Guatemalan President Alfonso Antonio Portillo Cabrera pose for media photographers during a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of Panamanian independence yesterday.

PHOTO: SUNG CHIH-HSIUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The US Department of State received an advance copy of the speech delivered by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) at last Friday's human rights award ceremony, but raised no objections.

The State Department soundly rejected Chinese complaints about Chen's itinerary in New York, which the Chinese Embassy registered just before Chen arrived, US government officials said.

Despite the pace-setting and highly political nature of some of Chen's remarks, US officials said that the comments were "appropriate," given that they were presented in a private setting.

Speaking about Chen's New York speech, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Eastern Asia-Pacific Randall Schriver said that "as a courtesy [Taiwanese officials] provided a copy to us in advance of the draft remark. As I understood it, he basically stuck with it, but he probably deviated from certain points."

The department did not formally review the speech for its approval, he said. "We didn't go back to them with comments or do anything like that," he said.

"Because it was a first-time event for a transit, we indicated that we thought it would be most appropriate if his remarks essentially addressed the league and the human rights issue," Schriver said, referring to the International League for Human Rights, which presented its annual Human Rights Award to Chen.

Regarding the political comments Chen made in the speech, such as the need for a new constitution, Schriver said: "In the context of basically solidifying the progress on human rights, [Chen] said something to the effect that further political reform was necessary, including addressing the Constitution."

And then he said that this would not affect in any way the pledge he had made about the "five noes."

As a result, Shriver said, he felt the comments were "a reasonable thing to do."

"We take him at his word. But I think it's reassuring to hear him repeat the inaugural pledge," Schriver said.

Schriver said the US viewed the ceremony as a private event.

"We thought it was an appropriate thing, particularly given his personal history. We were contacted by both the league and Taiwan in advance and we indicated that if it was done in a private event, because it was a transit, not a visit, we thought that would be something that we would support," Shriver said.

US officials also carefully reviewed the itinerary of the two-day trip beforehand. State Department officials "probably spent some amount of time poring over when he would speak to the press, etc. And we had confidence that the Taiwan side would honor what we agreed to in advance," he said.

"We hope he feels he was received in a manner that reflects the respect we have for him as a person, and we have an important unofficial relationship with Taiwan. There wasn't any intention to send an official signal or message through this transit. But we want to make sure that his dignity is upheld," Schriver said.

Meanwhile, at a closed-door briefing for US scholars and other interested parties in Washington, senior US officials revealed that the Chinese embassy got hold of Chen's New York itinerary and complained to the State Department, but were firmly rebuffed by department officials.

"China knew what Chen was going to be doing," one participant in the off-the-record briefing told the Taipei Times afterwards.

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