Mon, May 02, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Chen's overseas trip to allies wins cross-party support

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Both Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers expressed goodwill toward President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who left on a trip to the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu early yesterday morning.

In response to critics who say that Chen has spent too much money visiting foreign countries since he took office in 2000, DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said that this was not the case.

"Think about it, how many countries in the world would welcome our president as a president? It is extremely difficult for Taiwan to survive in the world today and that means we should work harder to step out," Hsiao said.

"I think we should salute and send our best regards to the president for what he is doing," she said.

Given that China is continuously working to lure away Taiwan's allies to establish relations with Beijing, Hsiao said that it takes work and effort to maintain diplomatic relations with foreign countries.

In addition, while some have said Chen is traveling to foreign countries now to divert media attention from KMT Chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) ongoing visit to China and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong's (宋楚瑜) upcoming trip there, Hsiao said the two issues have nothing to do with each other.

"It is the president's job to maintain friendly ties with foreign countries. He definitely needs to find some time to do this [take trips]," she said.

Hsiao encouraged the public to support the president since the trip would not be easy.

"There are no five-star hotels in those places. They do not even have running water. But the president insists on going to do something for the country. We should wish him good luck instead of cursing him," Hsiao said.

In addition to Hsiao's comments, KMT Lawmaker Su Chi (蘇起), who is also a member of the legislature's Diplomatic Committee, also sent his wishes to Chen.

Su is currently accompanying Lien in Xian.

Commenting on speculation that Chen's trip is aimed at countering Lien's and Soong's China visits, he said the trips to China have nothing to do with the president's trip to solidify Taiwan's foreign ties.

"Visiting our friends regularly is a must-do," he said when approached by the Taipei Times on Saturday night.

Su said that he had no idea when the Presidential Office had begun planning the trip to the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu, but he believed that the president was not using the trip to get himself on the front page of newspapers for political purposes.

According to Su, Lien's trip was scheduled and confirmed when KMT Vice Chairman Chiang Pin-kun (江丙坤) returned to Taipei last month. When they were planning the trip, they had no idea that the president would be traveling abroad at the same time.

Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) seldom visited our friends in the South Pacific region when he was president, Su said.

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