Sat, Jan 08, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Former AIT head talks with foreign affairs minister

TAIPEI , CNA

Visiting former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairwoman Therese Shaheen met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) yesterday for wide-ranging talks.

Chen said after his hour-long talk that Shaheen is very supportive of Taiwan and promised to bring more foreign friends to Taiwan to help them better understand the country.

"Shaheen told me that many foreign people have never been to Taiwan and tend to perceive Taiwan as a stark and barren place where `birds cannot lay eggs,'" Chen said, adding that he agrees with Shaheen's views that if more foreign people visit Taiwan, they will become more supportive of Taiwan.

Asked whether they had discussed Taiwan's NT$610.8 billion arms procurement plan and relations across the Taiwan Strait, Chen said no.

Instead, Chen said Shaheen had told him that many foreigners do not understand Taiwan and that frequent bickering between the ruling and opposition parties has inevitably affected foreign people's views of the country.

Shaheen, who resigned in April 2004 from the AIT post as the top US liaison officer with Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties, arrived in Taipei Wednesday for a weeklong private visit. This is her second trip to Taiwan since her resignation.

Shaheen said yesterday that Taiwan should show the world its resolve to defend itself by speeding up its NT$610.8 billion (US$18.23 billion) arms procurement deal with the United States.

Shaheen said the deal is one of the crucial factors in Taiwan-U.S. relations.

It upsets Washington to see Taipei keep issuing inflammatory rhetoric that is likely to intensify tension across the Taiwan Strait when the budget bill for the arms procurement is being shelved by the Legislative Yuan, Shaheen said.

The arms procurement package includes eight diesel-electric submarines, a squadron of 12 P-3C Orion submarine-hunting aircraft and six Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile batteries.

Shaheen also met with President Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday.

Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said after a closed-door meeting with Shaheen Thursday that he had briefed Shaheen on the process and progress made by the legislature on the critical arms procurement budget bill.

"Shaheen told me that Washington will respect any decision made by Taiwan on the arms deal and that Taiwan should judge if it has sufficient defensive and deterrent forces," Wang said.

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