Thu, Jan 17, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Beijing, not Huang, should be blamed: Chen

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Pan-green-camp supporters hold up placards saying ''Dismiss Vice President Annette Lu'' in front of Democratic Progressive Party headquarters in Taipei yesterday. Lu has publicly criticized the poor performance of the government since the legislative elections on Saturday.

PHOTO: CNA

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday dismissed calls for the resignation of Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳), naming Beijing as the main source of the nation's diplomatic challenges.

"Please don't bark up the wrong tree," Chen said. "We lost Malawi not because we did not work hard enough or were insensitive about the situation, but because China suppresses our diplomatic presence."

Chen, who is in Central America and the Caribbean on a five-day visit, told reporters in Saint Lucia that he recognized the efforts made by Huang and his predecessors, adding that he did not think he could find another foreign minister who was as competent as Huang.

"Whether Huang should step down to bear the responsibility of losing Malawi is not an issue," he said.

Taiwan terminated its 42-year-long diplomatic relations with the southeastern African country two hours after Lilongwe notified Taipei it was switching relations to Beijing, reportedly in exchange for a US$6 billion financial package.

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) has complained that no foreign minister has ever been held responsible for the nation's loss of nine diplomatic allies in the past eight years.

Despite the diplomatic setback, Chen said yesterday that the leaders of the nation's diplomatic allies attending the inauguration of Guatemalan president-elect Alvaro Colom had assured him of their allegiance during talks with him.

Chen said he was saddened by Malawi's switch of recognition, but was not surprised because he had been kept well informed of Lilongwe's intentions from the very beginning.

Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika had even invited Chen to visit his country when he telephoned him last month, Chen said, adding that Taipei was bracing for the worst when Huang, dispatched to Malawi to salvage diplomatic ties, was turned away by Lilongwe.

Chen said Lilongwe's decision had nothing to do with his presidency or his current visit because Malawi and Beijing had already signed a memorandum of understanding on Dec. 28.

The announcement was only made one day after the legislative elections in Taiwan on Saturday.

Beijing's suppression of Taiwan's diplomatic space will persist no matter who is in power, Chen said, adding that Beijing would continue to do so even if the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) won the presidential election in March.

While the country now has 23 diplomatic allies, Chen said the number was as little as 21 when the KMT was in power.

Meanwhile, DPP supporters staged a small protest outside DPP headquarters in Taipei yesterday, asking Lu to step down or that the party expel her for the remarks she has made about Huang and other Cabinet officials.

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