Sun, Jun 13, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Many entertain doubts about Paal

NOT VERY POPULAR A DPP legislator may have gone too far when he called the AIT director a `vicious dog,' but the truth is that many in government don't like the guy

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Douglas Paal, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, chats with Michael Kau, deputy minister of foreign affairs, at the opening of a new diplomatic building, Wednesday.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Chung-mo (林重謨) may have deserved the chastisement he received for referring to Douglas Paal, director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), as a "vicious dog," but his reckless remarks, to no small degree, reveal the resentment that many government officials feel toward the US diplomat.

Paal's personality and his friendliness toward China have given President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) pro-independence government lots of headaches, say officials who have worked with Paal.

The diplomat's relationship with government officials has been bumpy since he became director of the AIT in 2002. Complaints about him have found their way to Washington and, according to a senior government official, Paal was once forced to take a trip to the US to clear up his bosses' concerns about his performance in Taiwan.

"Paal is very snobbish, very hard to get along with," said the official, who is familiar with foreign affairs.

According to the official, Paal, once a member of the National Security Council under former US president George W. Bush, met with US President George W. Bush during the trip to the US to explain his problems with the Taiwanese government.

After their conversation, Bush told Paal: "You are still trusted." Paal related his successful meeting with Bush to a number of officials here.

Lin's conflict with Paal stemmed in large part from Lin's skepticism about the huge NT$610.8 billion (US$18.25 billion) budget allocation that the Cabinet has earmarked for purchasing arms from the US. The proposal is yet to be passed by the legislature.

Paal is believed to have played a key role in formulating the spending request. Known for faithfully implementing US policies in Taiwan, Paal once helped General Electric, a US concern, win a battle with Britain's Rolls Royce for an aircraft engine deal with China Airlines that was worth between US$600 million and US$700.

DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), a member of the legislature's Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee, said she understands why Lin is upset about the massive defense budget.

The budget serves the US' interest but not necessarily Taiwan's, Hsiao said, and for Lin, that is difficult to accept.

Lin's frustration over the proposed spending is not the only reason for his public spat with Paal. Another factor is that with legislative elections only a few months away, Lin is doing everything he can to boost his visibility and improve his electoral chances.

But calling Paal a "vicious dog" was too much. On Thursday, Chen showed strong displeasure with Lin's behavior during a meeting with legislators from the Taiwan Solidarity Union.

According to legislators who attended the meeting, Chen said that Lin should not irrationally accuse the US of intimidating Taiwan into buying weapons. Attacking foreign diplomats is "very inappropriate," the president was quoted as saying.

The next day Lin was seen escorted by DPP heavyweights to apologize to Paal.

An editorial printed in the Chinese-language Taiwan Daily this week reprimanded Lin for his remarks. However, the piece also called for Paal to reflect on his behavior. "After all, Lin is not the only official in Taiwan questioning whether Paal should continue in his current position," the editorial said.

"Lin's comparison of Paal to a vicious dog has to some degree revealed the public's concerns about the AIT director's actions," the piece continued.

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