President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) did not step out of the plane during a brief stopover in the US state of Alaska on his way to Central America yesterday -- a gesture described by accompanying Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers as a "silent protest" against the US.
Media reports have said that Washington has refused to allow Chen to set foot in the continental US or stay overnight during the transit stops as a way of expressing its displeasure with Taiwan's plan to push for a referendum on applying to join the UN using the name "Taiwan."
During a 50-minute transit in Alaska yesterday, Presidential Office spokesman David Lee (
However, DPP Legislator Tang Bi-a (
Chen received honorary chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan William Brown and Alaska Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell on board, with a sticker that read "UN for Taiwan" on his shirt and another one on his seat, Tang said.
Chen was quoted as saying in his meeting with Brown that he found the transit in Alaska "inconvenient, uncomfortable, unsatisfactory, and [felt] unrespected."
Taiwan will not criticize the US, Chen said, but the US' treatment of the delegation should not be viewed as a punishment for him alone but for the nation's 23 million citizens.
In response, Brown was quoted as saying that it was not the US' intention to insult Chen.
Chen told Brown that if the US was willing, it could have sent a special delegation from the defense or state departments to Taiwan for a dialogue to resolve differences.
Prior to his departure from Taipei yesterday for a three-nation visit to Central America, which includes brief stopovers in Alaska en route to and from the region, Chen reaffirmed at the Taoyuan International Airport his resolve to safeguard Taiwanese's right to hold a referendum on the nation's bid to join the UN.
Chen said Taiwan would continue to communicate with the US to try to sort out their differences on the referendum issue, adding that he did not want the issue to complicate his US transit plan and blur the focus of his Central America visit.