Fri, Jun 09, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Chen tells Burghardt he's still in charge

US CONCERNS The president met the AIT chairman and hosted a lunch for him at the Presidential Office building yesterday, after which the envoy visited the KMT chairman

By Ko Shu-ling and Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTERS

American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt, left, is greeted by President Chen Shui-bian at the Presidential Office yesterday.

PHOTO: SAM YEH, AP

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) told a visiting US official yesterday morning that his delegation of powers to Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and ranking Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials has not changed his presidential authority.

"In the past, the party and executive branch turned to me to settle personnel and policy differences. Now, they have to make their calls," Chen said. "There is a change in the common practice but the change does not affect my duties as stipulated in the Constitution."

Chen made the remarks while receiving American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt at the Presidential Office.

Burghardt arrived in Taipei on Wednesday.

Chen, who is embroiled in a recall campaign initiated by the pan-blue alliance, made use of the opportunity to explain the political situation to Burghardt.

Chen has asked the pan-blue camp to separate judicial investigations from political cases and stop politicizing the legal proceedings that his in-laws are involved in.

"In a democracy, everybody should be treated equally before the law and those committing a crime must receive appropriate punishment in accordance with the law," Chen said. "However, the punishment cannot be applied to a convict's extended family and entire clan [as was done in feudal China]. That is the true meaning of democracy and rule of law."

Chen also reiterated the "four noes" pledges that he made in his inauguration addresses in 2000 and 2004, saying that his assurances made to the US government and to US President George W. Bush remain unchanged despite the mounting political pressure and challenges he is facing.

"They have not changed over the six years and will not change the next two," he said. "Neither will they change because of the political atmosphere."

Chen also promised to continue to lobby for the long-delayed special arms procurement package and said he hoped to see defense spending account for 2.85 percent of GDP next year and 3 percent in 2008.

Chen said any constitutional revision project must conform to due procedures and that his administration is open to all possibilities regarding the type of government system.

While there has been speculation that Burghardt was carrying a message from the US government about the pan-blue recall motion, the US official said the timing of his visit was a coincidence.

After Chen's meeting with Burghardt, the two men ate lunch at the Presidential Office, along with AIT Director Stephen Young and his deputy David Keegan, Vice Premier Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Presidential Office Secretary-General Mark Chen (陳唐山), the ministers of foreign affairs, national defense and economic affairs and the head of the Mainland Affairs Council.

During lunch, Burghardt raised the US' concerns over Taiwan's exports of precision machine tools, some of which have ended up in countries such as Iran, a government source said.

Burghardt was quoted as saying that the US was willing to provide Taiwanese customs and trade authorities with the equipment needed to tighten export controls over such sensitive machinery.

Burghardt also touched on the opposition parties' willingness to support the arms procurement package, Taiwan's economic performance and the problem of domestic stability in light of the current political upheaval.

Chen said the recent demonstrations against him were not as bad as those after the 2004 presidential election, the source said.

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