Fri, Apr 30, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Chen explains secret US visit

LOW PROFILE The foreign affairs minister said yesterday that he was the only person in the ministry informed of Presidential Office Secretary-General Chou I-jen's US visit

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The US sent warnings to the Taiwanese government against changing the status quo through recent comments by the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, James Kelly, and American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) deputy director David Keegan, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) said yesterday.

Attending a legislative question-and-answer session for the first time since he took office two weeks ago, Chen was bombarded with questions from lawmakers.

Presidential Office Secretary-General Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) wrapped up his 36-hour visit to Washington and returned to Taipei yesterday. At the top of his agenda in Washington was explaining President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) constitutional reform plan.

Mark Chen said the US' concerns about the new constitution were caused by its insufficient understanding of the plan to overhaul the document.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has provided its overseas embassies and representative offices with documents of Chen Shui-bian's announcements concerning constitutional reform so that they could explain the plan to their host countries, Mark Chen said.

The contents of Chen Shui-bian's inauguration speech on May 20 and the candidate to succeed Chen Chien-jen (程建人) as head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington were also believed to be touched on in Chiou's discussions with US officials.

Chiou's trip to the US was of a low profile and his agenda was kept confidential.

Mark Chen, answering a question from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), said he was the only person in the ministry informed of Chiou's Washington trip.

The purpose of keeping Chiou's US visit secret was to build mutual trust between Taipei and Washington, Mark Chen said. Hsiao, however, questioned ministry officials' loyalty and said it is possible that some officials leaked information about Chiou's trip.

People First Party Legislator Sun Ta-chien (孫大千) said Chiou's secret trip to the US revealed that the Presidential Office's distrust of the ministry has alienated the ministry from the diplomatic decision-making process.

Mark Chen said he would soon discuss details of Chiou's trip in a meeting.

Mark Chen confirmed that the Presidential Office wanted Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to succeed Chen Chien-jen as the country's top representative in the US.

The minister dismissed media reports that Chiou, Hsiao, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) and DPP Legislator Parris Chang (張旭成) were possible candidates for the position.

The Presidential Office has asked Tsai about her intention to take over the job. According to Mark Chen, Tsai is "the only candidate" Chen Shui-bian has in his mind for the post.

Tsai, known for her attachment to her family, is still on leave and has previously shown little interest in taking the post, which will send her far away from home.

DPP Legislator Chen Chung-hsin (陳忠信), also head of the party's mainland affairs department, has been touted as the likely candidate to lead the MAC, should Tsai depart.

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