Sat, Feb 04, 2006 - Page 3 News List

No `surprise' intended, says foreign minister

NOT CONCRETE MOFA boss James Huang said that the suggestion to scrap the NUC was just an idea, and that the US should not be overly concerned with the issue

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) yesterday said that Taipei did not intend to "surprise" the US with President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) remarks on abolishing the National Unification Council and the unification guidelines, despite Washington's call for Taipei to stop unsettling US-Taiwan relations.

Huang said yesterday that in Chen's remarks to his supporters in Tainan County on Jan. 30, he only mentioned that Taiwan should "seriously consider" scrapping the National Unification Council and Guidelines for National Unification and therefore it did not constitute a surprise because the president did not say it's a "done decision."

"If we tell the US after we've decided to [scrap the Unification Council and guidelines], then that's a surprise," Huang said.

Huang made the remarks yesterday during the ceremony to mark the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' award of a special diplomatic service medal to former foreign minister Mark Chen (陳唐山), who is now secretary-general of the Presidential Office.

In response to a local Chinese-language newspaper report that the US did not accept the explanation given by Taiwanese authorities regarding Chen's remarks, Huang said "it's too early to say whether the US was unsatisfied" as Taipei and Washington are still in communication regarding the issue.

The foreign minister admitted, however, that Washington did want Taipei to further clarify the issue and said the government has been actively explaining, both by talking to the press here and communicating with the US through private channels.

The foreign ministry has been busy communicating with the US over the past few days since the president made the remarks on the first day of the Lunar New Year. The AIT also sent its spokeswoman Dana Shell Smith to gather information regarding the issue on Thursday.

Ministry staff and officials in charge of relations with the US said they had been conducting emergency measures to "extinguish the fire" by stressing the president's ideas were a preliminary thought and nothing concrete.

High-ranking officials from different governmental departments also convened emergency meetings to try to set the tone for the issue as Secretary-General of the National Security Council Chiou I-ren (邱義仁), Vice Premier Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Foreign Minister Huang and Chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) met in the foreign ministry on Thursday morning to decide on a unified response to the issue.

The meeting concluded that the foreign ministry would reiterate that Taiwan's stance is consistent with that of the US on cross-strait relations and the MAC would focus on attacking the necessity of the National Unification Council.

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