Sun, Jun 11, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Analysts say Burghardt's visit should contribute to cross-strait stability

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

The recent visit by American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt was a timely stabilizer for cross-strait relations in light of the recent political woes surrounding Taiwan' s leadership, analysts said yesterday.

Burghardt met with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and a score of political heavyweights over the past three days with the president reiterating his so-called "four noes" pledges in front of the US envoy. Washington responded warmly to the gesture, praising Chen for reaffirming his inaugural promises.

Analysts agreed that Burghardt's visit to Taiwan at this particular juncture had a stabilizing effect on cross-strait relations, especially with regard to US interests.

"The US envoy's visit gave Taiwan a confidence boost. It was to ensure that Taiwan was not weakened internally in its defense capability, which could give Bei-jing an opening that it could exploit," said Alexander Huang (黃介正), director of the Graduate Institute of American Studies at Tamkang University.

Huang added though that the US State Department's statement on its Web site lauding Chen' s reiteration of the "four noes" was also meant to tie Chen's hands and keep him true to his word.

Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), a political scientist from Soochow University, yesterday said Burghardt's choice to visit Taiwan at this sensitive time signified that the US has confidence that, with its democratic system, Taiwan can work its way out of the current political turmoil.

"The courtesy call by Burghardt to President Chen at this critical time signified that the US still regards Chen as the legitimate leader of Taiwan," Lo said.

Lo noted that an issue that should be given important attention is that Burghardt raised concerns about the fate of the special defense budget and whether Taiwan cares about its own national self-defense.

The US envoy had expressed that notwithstanding the opposition parties' call to initiate either a presidential recall or to dissolve the Cabinet, these considerations should not impede the review of the special defense budget in the legislature, Lo said.

As for whether the "US' factor" could sway public opinion against recalling the president, Huang said he saw no connection between the two, adding that the momentum to recall Chen would be based on the results of the legal investigation on the alleged involvement of Chen's family in a series of corruption scandals.

Lo said that as current evidence was primarily circumstantial, including allegations about first lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) accepting illegal gift certificates from Sogo Department Store, the opposition parties' move to recall the president based on rumors may weaken the legitimacy of their motion.

"If the recall motion is just based on rumors, it would be hard to justify it," Lo said.

He commented that pursuing a recall motion would demonstrate poor political judgment on the part of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) if it were not legally grounded.

"Ma once said he has one single bullet and therefore he doesn't want to pull the trigger too early as he could miss his target. But it seemed that the bullet has already been shot too early," Lo said.

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