The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) declined to comment yesterday on media reports that the US has recently sent a special envoy to Taipei to meet with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
Speaking at a regular news conference, Victor Chin (秦日新), director of the MOFA's North American Affairs Department, said there have been close communication channels between Taiwan and the US and that the two sides may also send special envoys from time to time to address matters of mutual concern under certain extraordinary circumstances.
While some of those exchanges could be made public, several other engagements could not be revealed due to the terms of a Taiwan-US tacit understanding, Chin said.
As an example, he noted that the US publicly sent Representative Jim Leech to attend the May 20 inauguration of Chen, while other engagements have been kept confidential. Consequently, Chin said, the foreign ministry must refrain from making any public comments on topics falling within that category.
According to a newspaper report, the Bush administration sent an "important representative" to Taipei a few days before Christmas to meet with Chen. During their meeting, the report quoted unidentified sources as saying that the envoy had assured Chen that the US stance and attitude toward relations with Taiwan will remain unchanged.
The report further said the envoy was positive toward Chen's major policy statements outlined in his May 20 inauguration speech and that the two sides had discussed Beijing's plan to enact a so-called anti-secession law.
At Tuesday's news conference, Chin said that as the US is still on Christmas holiday, it may be some time before the Bush administration comes up with a comprehensive response to the anti-secession legislation.
Nevertheless, he acknowledged that US Secretary of State Colin Powell said at a Monday news conference on the recent earthquake and tsunami disasters in South Asia that this is not the time to escalate tension in the Taiwan Strait.
Powell made the comments while responding to reporters' questions regarding China's just-released defense white paper and its proposed anti-secession law.
Chin said the US has consistently opposed any move that could lead to changes to the status quo.
In other words, Chin said, the US would definitely oppose Beijing's anti-secession legislation if it involves changes to the status quo.
Since Beijing announced its plan to enact an anti-secession law targeting Taiwan, Chin said the Taiwan government has continuously exchanged views with the US authorities on the issue.
"Beijing has yet to reveal the text of the legislation and the government will continue to maintain close contacts with the US authorities and express our grave concern about Beijing's new legislation," Chin said.
Since Chen's inauguration for a second term in May, Chin said, Taiwan has on numerous occasions extended olive branches to Beijing.
However, Beijing has so far not made any goodwill response, Chin said, adding that the government will let the Bush administration fully understand this situation.