Wed, Nov 08, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Presidential Office in crisis: US to remain an interested observer

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The US government continued to take a hands-off attitude toward last week's indictment of first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) and the prosecutor's implication of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in relation to their handling of the "state affairs fund," as Washington continues to sort out the facts and implications of the case.

The US considers the case to be an "internal matter in Taiwan," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said on Monday in response to a question at the department's daily press briefing.

"We believe the Taiwanese authorities, through their legal system, will be able to resolve this in an appropriate way," he said.

Official Washington was "taken by surprise" by the indictment, one observer said. But while there continue to be "eyebrows raised," people in Washington are not overly concerned that any disastrous problems will arise as a result of the prosecutor's action.

Officials are still said to be trying to understand the facts of the case and how the legal action against Chen and Wu is likely to affect Taiwanese politics and US-Taiwan relations.

"These are interesting internal political matters in Taiwan," Casey said, "but really, it's for the Taiwanese to decide."

Asked about the potential impact on cross-strait relations, Casey said, "we certainly continue to look at all issues involving the Taiwan Strait, but I don't have anything new to offer you on that subject."

Casey's responses echoed those given by State Department briefer Sean McCormack on Friday.

At that time, Washington was caught short by the indictment and the implication of Chen, as people were surprised that the prosecutor's action came as quickly as it did.

As today, the State Department then took a calm approach, also calling the development an "internal matter" and expressing confidence that the Taiwanese legal system would be able to handle it.

McCormack then also expressed confidence that US-Taiwan relations would not change, even if Chen was forced to step down, and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) were to take over.

Since then, the sense of shocked uncertainty elsewhere in Washington has given way to a somewhat calmer assessment of the meaning of events in Taipei, especially in view of Chen's Sunday defense of his action and as it has become clear that Chen will not step down or be forced to resign immediately.

The weekend has also given US and Taiwan officials a chance to meet and exchange information, and has afforded them the opportunity to assure that the indictment will not lead to any major immediate political upheaval that could seriously affect cross-strait dynamics or US-Taiwan relations.

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