Mon, Apr 12, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Former dissident steps into post as foreign minister

`PRAGMATIC IDEALIST' Mark Chen, a former dissident who has seen the ugly side of the KMT, said he would continue with reform and promote trips abroad by the president

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Mark Chen confirms that he will take over as foreign minister, at a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: YEH CHI-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

Premier Yu Shyi-kun yesterday formally announced the appointment of Mark Chen (陳唐山) as the nation's new foreign minister. Chen was once blacklisted by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) during the martial-law era.

Chen is scheduled to take up his new post on Wednesday or Thursday.

Describing Chen as a "pragmatic idealist," Yu said that he expected Chen, because of his education and extensive political experience, to perform his new duties well and demonstrate wisdom and courage.

Chen, a 68-year-old native of Tainan County, was elected to the Legislative Yuan in 1993. He served as Tainan County commissioner between 1993 and 2000.

During his stint as county commissioner, Chen received for five years in a row the highest approval rating among the nation's 23 county and city chiefs.

Chen earned a doctorate degree in physics from Purdue University in Indiana and spent more than 30 years in the US. Chen served as the president of the Taiwan Association of America, World Federation of Taiwanese Associations and Formosan Association for Public Affairs.

Because of his role in overseas democratic movements, he was once blacklisted by the KMT administration. He returned home in 1992 to run in the legislative election.

Big opportunity

Commenting on his new post, Chen said that it was a position that he, a former political dissident, had never dreamed of.

Chen also said that he owes the opportunity to make accomplishments in his new job to predecessors who have laid a solid foundation for him.

Yu, pledging to recruit outgoing Foreign Minister Eugene Chien (簡又新) into the Cabinet again if the opportunity arises, praised the accomplishments of Chien, who quit over what Chien called the ministry's mistakes leading to the resignation of American Institute in Taiwan Chairwoman Therese Shaheen.

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) will resign along with Chien, and Chen Chien-jen (程建人), Taiwan's top representative to the US, has also offered to resign. Chen said that he would not have time to think about finding successors for them until after he takes up his new post.

Democratization

Chen said that he would like to apply the experience he has accumulated over the years as a democratic trailblazer to push forward the nation's democratic development and expand Taiwan's diplomatic space.

"While I hope I can adopt a practical approach in order to continue on the path of reform, I hope to integrate the opinions of my colleagues at the ministry and adjust to current foreign policies," he said.

Foreign presence

Chen also pledged to continue to push for the president and vice president to be able to visit foreign countries, despite the nation's shrinking diplomatic space.

"There are many approaches to raising the nation's international profile, and overseas trips by the heads of state seem to be the most effective," he said.

Chen, however, was vague about the departure of Shaheen, who was reportedly asked to step down for sending a note to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) congratulating him on his re-election before the White House had issued an official statement.

"While we don't know the exact reason for her departure, it's inappropriate to stick a label on someone for something before the truth is learned," Chen said.

"There's one thing I'm certain of, however, and that is that the nation's foreign policy has to be conducted on a basis of mutual interests and dignity."

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