Sat, May 06, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Wang defends Chen as lawmakers debate Chen's trip

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Although several pan-blue legislators claimed that President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) recent US transit episode had humiliated the country, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday rebutted that criticism and gave Chen his support.

Wang yesterday said that everyone should wish Chen a good trip and support him while he is representing the nation in other countries.

"I support Chen when he says that the more frustration he encounters, the braver he will become,'" Wang said. "I hope Taiwanese give more encouragement to the president."

Echoing Wang's remarks, Hualien County Commissioner Hsieh Shen-shan (謝深山) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday said it was inappropriate to criticize Chen's trip.

Both pan-blue and pan-green camps should accept and support Chen's decision because it was made in order to uphold Taiwan's dignity, he said.

He added that as he had been the secretary-general of the Executive Yuan before, he understood that diplomatic breakthroughs were extremely difficult.

"Therefore, I feel Chen has been wronged," he said yesterday during a media and public relations forum held in Hualien.

Lawmakers engaged in debate yesterday over Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang's (黃志芳) complaint that the US had leaked information to the press which had led to the denial of a transit stop for President Chen's plane in Lebanon.

According to yesterday's Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper), Huang, who is accompanying Chen on the trip, told reporters that "It is regretful to learn that the US couldn't help Taiwan keep [the information] confidential."

Huang said he had told Taiwan's official representative to Washington David Lee (李大維) at around 1:10am Thursday morning Washington time to ask the US not to disclose the information that Chen wouldn't make a stopover in the US.

But the government's last-minute decision that Chen would not make a transit stop in Anchorage, Alaska, en route to Paraguay was revealed by the US Department of State, a move that took the Taiwanese government by surprise. China forced Lebanon not to grant landing clearance to Chen's plane after learning about the plan from Taiwan's local media, Huang said.

Some pan-blue camp legislators said that the US is under no obligation to help Chen keep information confidential, and criticized Chen for further straining the nation's relations with the US.

"Chen's behavior put the nation's relations with the US at risk in order to express his personal displeasure," People First Party (PFP) caucus whip Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said.

But Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tang Bi-a (唐碧娥) defended the president, and denounced the US's handling of the matter.

"The villainous style of the US violated international etiquette [and the US] colluded with China to squeeze Taiwan's international space," Tang said.

DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said the US' handling of Chen's request to transit "had broken our heart," since the Taiwanese people had always been very friendly to the US.

While Hsiao blamed local media for leaking Chen's possible transit in Lebanon, she said the government should patch up relations with the US after Chen's return.

Additional reporting by Yu Tai-lang

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