Fri, Aug 27, 2004 - Page 3 News List

US ties `increasing' under Bush

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former representative to the US Chen Chien-jen addresses the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

US relations have improved substantially under US President George W. Bush's administration, in contrast to that of former president Bill Clinton, said Chen Chien-jen (程建人), the nation's former representative to the US, yesterday.

Chen said his office had found there was little that could be done to wear away at restrictions imposed on the Taiwan-US relationship under the Clinton administration, but when Bush came to office in 2000, he immediately sensed a change of atmosphere.

"People realized President Bush was sympathetic to us ... Many of his top officials have either been to Taiwan or know well what's going on here. From the very beginning, we could feel the atmosphere of friendliness," Chen said during a speech at a luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei.

In a speech entitled "Reflections on US-Taiwan Relations," the former foreign minister recalled that Taiwan had been discouraged from participating in the World Health Organization (WHO) during the Clinton years.

"But now, in the Bush administration, we could see steps have been made one by one. The US is now the strongest and staunchest supporter of our efforts to join the WHO as an observer," Chen said.

Under the Bush administration, the contact between the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington and its counterparts in different agencies in the US government has "increased tremendously," he said.

Chen said that his office's relationship with the US government was so close that ambassadors from countries that maintain formal diplomatic ties with the US had expressed envy.

However, describing certain US government guidelines on Taiwan since 1979 as "unfair, unreasonable and anachronistic," Chen said that relaxing the restrictions would improve the bilateral relationship.

Chen, who returned from the US three weeks ago, said he had thought he would retire as a diplomat at that time. He was subsequently appointed as the nation's representative to the EU, replacing the original candidate for the post, former foreign minister Eugene Chien (簡又新).

Commenting on the US presidential election in November, Chen said the US' Taiwan policy is likely to remain more or less the same, no matter which party takes power.

"However, we have to watch very carefully in the long run, because nothing is static in the international community," he said. "We are now witnessing the growing strength of the PRC [People's Republic of China]. They have been applying their influence worldwide. How we are going to deal with their increasing influence is a very important topic."

Problems arose in Taiwan-US ties after President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) introduced plans for referendums and the adoption of a new constitution. Washington's concerns had to be addressed through a lot of dialogue, Chen Chien-jen said.

"The [inauguration] speech by President Chen really helped. It not only dissipated some of the doubts or suspicions, but also set our country on the right track," he said.

However, the "polarization" of Taiwan's society, which worsened during the course of the presidential campaign and following it, worried Chen Chien-jen.

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