Thu, May 04, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers clash over US stops

CONFLICT While the opposition blamed the president for the difficulty in arranging a US stopover, his camp said the problems stemmed from China's obstructionism

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Pan Wei-kang holds up a poster during a press conference yesterday, saying that the difficulties President Chen Shui-bian had encountered in arranging a US transit stop on his trip to Paraguay and Costa Rica was an embarrassment to the nation.

PHOTO: WANG MIN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES

Heated differences of opinion arose among legislators yesterday over the difficulty President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) administration experienced in negotiating with Washington on his US transit stops.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus whip Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛) yesterday held a press conference calling on Chen to cancel the trip altogether.

Opposition legislators said that Chen was being punished by the US because of his earlier decision to cease the functions of the National Unification Council.

KMT Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) said that there was no need for Chen to stop over in the US on his eight-day state visit to Paraguay and Costa Rica.

"It is unnecessary for Chen to make a transit stop in the US. He could also fly to Central and South America via South Africa," Chiang said.

KMT Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) described the episode as a "diplomatic setback," and said the government should apologize for what he called a regression of the Taiwan-US relationship.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said that China's obstructionism was to blame for the difficulty in arranging the US transit stops.

"China placed strong demands on the US to `do something' when the president filed the request to make transit stops in the US," Wang told reporters, without elaborating.

He declined to disclose the source of his information.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus called on opposition legislators not to demoralize the government.

DPP caucus whip Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said that the opposition legislators should rather unite with the government in fighting against China, adding that Beijing was the country's only enemy in the diplomatic arena.

"The US needs China's help in dealing with the issue of Iran's nuclear program, and that influenced its decision on Chen's transit request, which is disappointing," DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said.

Chen is scheduled to arrive in Paraguay today and to leave for Costa Rica on Sunday. It was unclear yesterday whether Chen would get off the plane during his two-hour transit stop in Anchorage.

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