Sat, Oct 14, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Officials want better contacts with US: report

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA, WASHINGTON

Senior Taiwanese officials believe increased routine higher-level contacts should be established between the nation and the US to facilitate bilateral communication, according to a report on Taiwan-US relations released on Tuesday by the US Congressional Research Service.

The report said some Taiwanese officials have criticized the US for being too careless concerning Taiwan's democracy and either overly solicitous of China or "afraid of Beijing."

It cited Taiwanese officials as suggesting that Washington establish "better and more direct channels" specifically with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

"Many on the Taiwan side appear anxious that US-Taiwan communications have eroded in some ways through a combination of circumstances; they are concerned that Taiwan now has an `image problem' in the United States," the report said.

According to the report, the status of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) as Taiwan's representative to the US has been eroded since Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power in 2000. This results from suspicions in the DPP administration that the chief representatives appointed since 2000 have allegiances to the Chinese National Party (KMT).

"Some informed observers feel that the Chen administration does not `trust' TECRO, either to be a faithful communicator of Taiwan's message in the United States or to present an accurate picture of US views to Chen administration officials," it said.

To deal with its suspicions of TECRO, the Chen administration has appointed a DPP loyalist to the deputy position in the Washington TECRO office to monitor information flow there, bypassed TECRO and sought information from others in the US more in tune with DPP interests, the report said.

"The actions of the Chen administration and the proliferation of messages from Taiwan have helped undermine TECRO's effectiveness, in particular its effectiveness with Congress," it said.

Meanwhile, the report cited US officials as saying that Chen's unpredictable political style has become "somewhat problematic for the US-Taiwan relationship."

For example, although Chen made the so-called "five noes" commitments, including not to declare independence, in his 2000 inaugural address, Chen in August 2002 defined the relationship between Taiwan and China as "one country on either side of the Strait," the report said.

According to a former official in the administration of US President George W. Bush interviewed in the report, that statement "fatally hurt" the relationship between the Chen administration and the White House.

"The Bush White House at this juncture reportedly began to see the Taiwan leadership as more inclined to put personal political interests ahead of more strategic objectives and US concerns, " the report said.

The report said US officials were concerned that the corruption allegations against Chen would affect Taiwan's political development.

They are worried that Chen's rivals will take advantage of the ongoing anti-corruption demonstrations to escalate anti-Chen sentiment and that Taiwan's judicial and democratic process may not be able to function properly to deal with the corruption allegations under these circumstances, the report said.

"In addition to raising the risks of political and economic instability, growing political polarization in Taiwan could further erode the quality of US-Taiwan contacts," the report said.

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