Fri, Jan 27, 2006 - Page 2 News List

New minister maps out diplomatic strategy

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

New Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) yesterday unveiled a reform plan designed to streamline the country's overseas consular offices in order to concentrate diplomatic resources on strategically important regions such as the Middle East and North Africa.

Speaking during his first meeting with the press since his appointment to the foreign ministry, Huang said that because of Taiwan's peculiar diplomatic status, it may be necessary to concentrate most resources on diplomatically important regions. Streamlining the oversized operations of the country's foreign representative offices, which currently number 122 and are greater than those of Australia and Canada, is also a priority.

"One of our major concerns is to consider whether or not we should downsize the number of overseas consular offices and focus more of our resources in areas where we need diplomatic breakthroughs," Huang said.

Huang singled out North Africa and the Middle East as new diplomatically important regions where Taiwan could advance its relations with the non-allied countries.

"If we can give a strong boost to ties with these non-allied countries, I think it will be extremely beneficial in the battle to enlarge Taiwan's international space," he said.

The minister also pledged to smooth communications between the foreign ministry, the Presidential Office and the National Security Council -- the three major administrative bodies responsible for foreign policy. He said he will try to reverse the current image in which the foreign ministry often seems to be left out of the decision-making process for vital foreign policy.

He asked the ministry's six departments in charge of regional affairs to overhaul their strategies to cope with the new needs for strategically important areas.

In response to questions raised by the opposition parties about his qualifications for the post because of his relative youth, a confident Huang said that age should not prevent young and capable people from taking on important positions.

Citing US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is 48, as an example, Huang, who is 47, said he was confident about the political experience he has gained from his previous positions at the Mainland Affairs Council and the Presidential Office, where he was able to get involved in the country's core decision-making processes.

Huang said that any director of an overseas representative office would be hard pressed to match his record of achievement.

"There are many young foreign ministers representing other countries, why can't Taiwan also have a young foreign minister?" he asked.

He said while the US is advocating a policy of "transformational diplomacy," Taiwan could do the same to bring in new ideas for foreign strategies, including flexibility in personnel use regardless of age, and cope with the demands for administrative efficiency.

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