Fri, Jan 14, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Soong set to meet US politicians

MIDDLE MAN The People First Party said its chairman is likely to meet senior political figures in Washington and talk about the long-delayed arms-procurement package

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The People First Party (PFP) yesterday hinted that PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) would visit Washington soon and meet with several leading US politicians and that Taiwan's proposed arms deal with the US might be discussed.

But a PFP spokesman did not confirm that Soong would meet Randall Schriver, the deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian Affairs to talk about cross-strait issues and the budget for the arms package, as reported by local media.

The PFP did not confirm Soong would meet Schriver, but did say that Soong would meet US politicians and academics and that it was possible the subject of the arms deal would be touched upon during the meetings.

But a source in Washington said Soong would meet with Schriver today. It was understood, according to the source, that the meeting was arranged by Jason Yuan (袁健生), Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-PFP's representative in Washington.

national interest

"Chairman Soong would exchange opinions on cross-strait issues and the PFP's cross-strait peace-advancement bill ... because these issues also relate to the national interest of the US," PFP director of policy research Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) said.

Chang, meanwhile, would not confirm the identities of the people Soong would be meeting because of "privacy concerns."

"We do not rule out the possibility [that the US will raise the arms deal] because Soong is an opposition leader. The US is likely to use the opportunity to communicate with Soong on the deal," Chang said.

But Chang stressed that even if the US mentioned the issue, it did not mean the PFP would "become lax" on the budget, and that it was still not possible for the budget to pass the legislature before the next recess.

"After Soong finishes his meetings, he will hold a press conference to reveal what happened. There will be no closed-door deals," Chang said.

'only normal'

PFP caucus whip Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) also refused to confirm that Soong would be meeting with Schriver, but he said that since Soong had many students and teachers in US political circles, it was "only normal" that he should meet some politicians there.

"Every time Chairman Soong goes to the US, he meets friends who are in political circles. It is possible that he could meet someone ... at a higher level such as Schriver's to discuss politics," Liu said.

Also yesterday, DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) expressed his support for Soong meeting political figures in the US and said it was a positive development for the domestic political scene.

"By meeting US officials and discussing cross-strait issues and Taiwanese politics, Soong shows that he is thinking about the future of Taiwanese politics and is preparing to decide on his next move," Ker said.

"This is good for political development," he said.

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