The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday rebutted remarks made by the Papua New Guinea (PNG) prime minister, saying it "does not understand" the motive behind the PNG government denying that the two countries had talked about forging diplomatic ties back in 2006.
MOFA was responding to PNG Prime Minister Michael Somare's comments that his meeting last year with former foreign minister James Huang (黃志芳) at a Singapore hotel was only a "casual encounter." Other reports quoted Somare as saying he was not even aware that Huang was Taiwan's foreign minister when the two met.
"We do not understand the motivation behind the PNG official's recent comments," said Phoebe Yeh, MOFA spokeswoman (葉非比).
A China Times article reported that PNG Minister of National Planning Paul Tiensten said the reason he came to Taiwan in November 2006 was only to discuss strengthening bilateral economic relations between the two countries, not to pave the way for PNG's recognition of Taiwan.
Tiensten said he was never authorized to discuss any issues related to diplomatic ties with the Taiwanese government. Both Tiensten and Somare reiterated PNG's commitment to the "one-China policy."
Yeh yesterday said it is baffling why the PNG officials would make such a statement, but insisted that the two countries indeed held negotiations on possibly establishing official ties.
The ministry said Tiensten came to Taiwan under the arrangement of two brokers in October 2006 as PNG's acting foreign minister to negotiate terms for the South Pacific country to drop recognition of Beijing for Taiwan.
The talks, she said, included details of the US$30 million foreign aid Taiwan promised to PNG once the deal was settled.
The entire fund has gone missing and one of the brokers, Ching Chi-jiu (金紀玖), is reportedly at large in the US, while his partner Wu Shih-tsai (吳思材) was taken into custody by Taiwan authorities last week.
The scandal of the vanishing fund has led to the resignation of three officials, including Huang, vice premier Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), and deputy defense minister Ko Cheng-heng (柯承亨).
Chiou is now listed as an accused party and is banned from traveling on the grounds of malfeasance.
The diplomatic talks broke down when Huang refused to sign the communique because the PNG government did not deliver the conditions that Huang demanded, Yeh said, including an official authorization from the PNG prime minister and a meeting with the official foreign minister.
She recounted that Huang met with Somare a few days later at the Singapore hotel, where Somare expressed regrets that his country was not able to recognize Taiwan because of pressure from Beijing.
PNG's second attempt to sign the communique with Taiwan failed again in January last year when Tiensten, who was the official foreign minister by that time, failed to produce a communique that called for "comprehensive diplomatic relations" between the two countries, Yeh said, saying Huang had refused to sign the document because the language was unacceptable.
Chiou yesterday chose not to respond to Somare's statement.
"Once confidential diplomacy comes to the surface, each party involved in the case has to face lots of things in which the truth would be mingled with the false," he told the Taipei Times in a telephone interview yesterday. "This is why it's necessary to keep such diplomacy confidential."