Sat, Sep 25, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Ambassador says diplomatic ties with Panama still strong

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Panamanian Ambassador Jose Antonio Dominguez yesterday dismissed rumors that diplomatic ties might be cut in November. He also said a new ambassador will soon arrive to replace him.

People First Party (PFP) Legislator Sun Ta-chien (孫大千) asked Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) at a legislative question-and-answer session whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was aware Panama might switch recognition to Beijing in November. Sun quoted unnamed sources as saying Panama will sever ties after the US presidential election.

Kau said the ministry "has no information" about Panama's possible change of allegiance.

Sun also questioned whether Panama had rejected a US$10 billion aid package Taiwan offered to help repair the Panama Canal. The package, Sun claimed, was said to be part of Taiwan's efforts to salvage relations with Panama.

Rumors about the package "were not facts," Kau said.

Dominguez said in a phone interview that although President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) made a "very friendly statement" during his Panama visit, expressing Tai-wan's willingness to help improve the canal, he never mentioned giving US$10 billion as a gift.

He stressed Taiwan will help the canal expansion project in form of "cooperation" or "investment" rather than paying Panama up to US$10 billion for the work.

The ambassador also denied speculation that Taiwan and Pana-ma may cut ties two months from now. Dominguez, who is scheduled to leave Taipei next Thursday, said his successor will be arriving early next month.

"I can even tell you his name. He is Julio Mock," Dominguez said, noting that if Panama had any intention to switch recognition to Beijing, it would not have been in a hurry to send a new ambassador to Taipei.

Taiwan's 12th bid to enter the UN was rejected last Wednesday. All but five of Taiwan's diplomatic allies spoke in favor of the country's bid to join the UN. Panama was among those which failed to speak for Taiwan.

Dominguez told reporters last Thursday that his country did not speak because its new UN ambassador is still building contacts.

Meanwhile, during a meeting with foreign correspondents in Panama last Thursday, First Vice-President and Minister of Foreign Relations Samuel Lewis Navarro said his government had been considering whether to speak in favor of Taiwan. He said Panama had been assessing the advantages and disadvantages of speaking in favor of Taiwan.

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