Thu, Aug 24, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Chen Shui-bian confirms date for Palau visit

REMEMBER `823' The president confirmed his travel plans while visiting soldiers stationed on Kinmen, where he spoke of the need for vigilance

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA, WASHINGTON

President Chen Shui-bian, front on carpet, and Defense Minister Lee Jye arrive on Kinmen during a whirlwind visit to the island yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday confirmed that he will visit Palau on Sept. 3.

Chen revealed on Aug. 14 that he was planning to visit Palau next month for a summit with the nation's six Pacific island allies.

Yesterday's announcement was made during Chen's trip to the outlying island of Kinmen.

Meanwhile, a US State Department official said on Tuesday that Taiwan's domestic politics will play no role in Washington's processing of any requests from Taiwan for transit stops by its president on US soil.

The official told reporters that the US State Department would process any requests based on precedent and would take into account the president's safety, convenience, comfort and dignity.

The official said that it has always been Washington's policy not to get involved in any of Taiwan's domestic political disputes, which he added, should be resolved by the people of Taiwan.

The official dismissed questions by reporters on whether the US would allow Chen to make a transit stop in Guam during his trip to Palau early next month, saying that he would not comment on Taiwanese media speculation.

Yesterday marked Chen's third visit to Kinmen this year. Chen visited the former military stronghold to show his appreciation for the armed forces ahead of Soldier's Day on Sept. 3.

In addition to attending the 48th anniversary of the 823 Artillery Bombardment (八二三炮戰) of 1958, Chen paid his respects at the Taiwu Mountain Cemetery's martyr's shrine. China dropped as many as 500,000 bombs on Kinmen over a period of 44 days during the 823 Artillery Bombardment.

Chen yesterday reminded the public of the historic lesson learned from the bombardment, saying that peace could not be guaranteed by depending on an enemy's goodwill.

Although no large-scale military confrontation has broken out in the Taiwan Strait over the past 50 years, Chen said this did not mean that China had slowed its military buildup.

"Currently, the People's Liberation Army has deployed along its southeast coast more than 800 ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan," Chen said. "The number is four times that in 2000 when I took the oath of office and it has increased by between 100 and 120 this year."

While Kinmen and other outlying islands bore the brunt of the 823 Artillery Bombardment, Chen warned that Taiwan itself could be the target of future assaults.

National defense is no longer the sole responsibility of the armed forces but also that of the general public, he said.

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