Fri, Sep 23, 2005 - Page 3 News List

DPP wants apology over PFP allegations

BY KO SHU-LING  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH DPA

People First Party Legislator Sun Ta-chien holds a press conference yesterday, accusing the government of carrying out "dollar diplomacy" by building an expensive airport for Guatemala.

PHOTO: CNA

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus yesterday demanded that People First Party (PFP) Legislator Sun Ta-chien (孫大千) apologize if he fails to prove his allegation that President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) current overseas trip is to conduct "dollar diplomacy."

"We are very disappointed at seeing a caucus leader make such an irresponsible and groundless accusation," DPP caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) said.

At a press conference earlier yesterday, Sun accused Chen of succumbing to blackmail from Guatemala, which he said was extorting money from Taipei by threatening to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Sun said Guatemala has asked Taiwan to help it build an international airport and launch an international airline costing NT$1.5 billion (US$46.8 million).

"If Taiwan does not meet the demands, Guatemala threatened it would cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan to recognize China," Sun said, adding that Chen will close the aviation deals during his visit to Guatemala.

Lai asked for proof.

"We'd like him to provide the source of information and evidence or offer a public apology," Lai said, stating that Chen's overseas trip was aimed at consolidating diplomatic ties and safeguarding the nation's international space.

"Beijing has launched a `zero diplomatic ally' scheme to force our diplomatic allies to sever ties with us and then switch them to China," he said.

It is alright for opposition parties to disapprove of the president's efforts, but they should not fail to tell friends from foes, Lai said.

Citing the example of Nauru, Lai said that China is a real pro in conducting "money diplomacy."

In July 2002, the tiny Pacific island state switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing on the day Chen was inaugurated chairman of the DPP.

The China-Nauru deal was sealed on the basis of Beijing's promise to offer around US$137 million in aid and debt relief, while the nation refused to accept a request of US$10 million from the country on the verge of bankruptcy.

DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said that if Sun genuinely cares about how foreign aid is allocated, he should obtain the information from the legislature's Foreign Affairs Committee instead of making unwarranted accusations.

Describing Sun's allegations as a "fabrication," DPP Legislator Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬) said that Sun should help the nation to make more friends rather than more enemies in the diplomatic arena.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) yesterday also denied Sun's claim.

"During President Chen's visit to Guatemala, he will sign the free trade agreement and an agreement on cooperation in aviation and shipping with President Oscar Berger," he said. "There is no promise or plan regarding the international airport or international airline."

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