Sun, Jun 03, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Interview: Taiwan's man in Washington on maintaining relations

Joseph Wu, the first Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) member appointed representative to the US, assumed his new position in April. Wu sat down with Taipei times Staff Reporter Charles Snyder in Washington on Wednesday and shared his objectives for his new job and views on Taiwan-US relations

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Taiwan's representative to the US, Joseph Wu, smiles in this photo taken on April 12.

PHOTO: CHIEN JUNG-FONG, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: Just before he left Washington, your predecessor, David Lee (李大維), told me that one of your main tasks here would be to re-establish or improve trust between Taipei and Washington. Do you agree with that and if so, how can that be accomplished?

Joseph Wu (吳釗燮): I agree with what David Lee said, that trust between Taiwan and the US needs to be restored. But I think that when people think about mutual trust, most think that it comes provided there is restraint on the Taiwanese side. Taiwan has to be prevented from saying or doing something that the US might find difficult to accept.

To me, that's not the accurate or proper way to restore mutual trust.

I think the best way is for both sides to understand each other without any filters. When the US says something to Taiwan, we have to understand why they say it, the reasons behind or other things associated with that statement.

When they say what Taiwan does or Taiwan says is not helpful, we need to understand whether there is a discrepancy between what we see and how the US construes what Taiwan is about to do.

So we have to bridge that gap and that is my prime responsibility here: to let the US side understand where Taiwan is coming from. Then I think mutual understanding can be facilitated. Once you have reached mutual understanding, mutual trust will follow.

Before I came to Washington, some people, including American friends in Taiwan, told me that David Lee had done a tremendous job and that he was highly respected. I still hear very flattering comments about him.

I think I have some advantages over him because I am a member of the DPP and I have worked with President Chen [Shui-bian (陳水扁)] since 2002. I would say that I have a much better understanding of the president and a fuller understanding of DPP policies and positions.

TT: Since your arrival here, you have kept a busy schedule meeting US officials and members of Congress. What has struck you about their response to your messages about Taiwan's policies and Taiwan in general?

Wu: Meetings with Congress and meetings with other American friends [refers to Bush administration officials] are different. Congressmen are very busy; they have tight schedules all the time. So meetings with them are usually not very long. Some are very brief encounters in the chambers next to the floor. The meetings with them are mostly sharing information with them, reminding them about or requesting help from them on some issues.

Most congressmen are very supportive of my requests. Whether they are from the Taiwan Caucus or not, most actually appreciate our democracy and will do what they can to support Taiwan.

Meeting with other friends is usually very frank and very constructive. By frank I mean that when we exchange views, we try to do it as frankly as possible. Being frank or straightforward allows for better understanding. We don't hide anything from our counterparts.

When I say that the meetings are mostly constructive, other than the exchange of ideas, there are many issues being tossed around. The two sides are always trying to find ways of working with the other. I have certainly felt that in the past six weeks since I have arrived here.

Cooperation between Taiwan and the US on substantive issues has improved to the extent that I see, on some specific issues, the two sides virtually fighting side-by-side along those issues.

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