Thu, Dec 18, 2008 - Page 3 News List

MOFA mum on Shih’s Singapore post

OFFICIALLY UNOFFICIAL While it seemed more evident by the day that the Cabinet spokeswoman was headed for Singapore, arrows pointed to Su Jun-pin to replace her

By Jenny W. Hsu and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday declined to confirm speculation that Government Information Office Minister Vanessa Shih (史亞平) has been tapped for representative to Singapore, citing protocol.

“We never comment on personnel appointments until they have been completed. We will make an official announcement once it has been confirmed,” ministry spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) said, without providing dates.

A ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed the rumor and said the ministry would make the announcement immediately after Singapore has given its approval.

The post has been vacant for three months since Kuo Shih-nan (郭時南), appointed by the previous administration, stepped down.

Rumors of Shih’s appointment have been circulating for weeks, but both the ministry and the GIO have declined to confirm it. The news finally leaked out late on Tuesday night when Chinese-language media reported that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had removed Shih from her position and appointed her to Singapore.

If confirmed, Shih would be the country’s third female de facto ambassador, with former deputy minister of foreign affairs Katharine Chang (張小月) heading the office in London and Elizabeth Chu (朱玉鳳) serving as representative to Greece.

Shih, 47, a former deputy representative to Australia, is a graduate of National Chengchi University’s Department of Diplomacy.

Despite the absence of official ties, Singapore and Taiwan enjoy a close working relationship. The city-state is seen as a crucial partner for Taiwan and a strong advocate of Taipei’s attempt to increase Taiwan’s participation at regional events.

Singapore was the first country to send a congratulatory note to Ma following his win in the presidential election. At the UN General Assembly in September, Singapore’s representative at the UN, George Yao (楊榮文), for the first time publicly commended Taiwan’s efforts to alleviate cross-strait tension.

In October, the Legislative Yuan created the Taiwan-Singapore Parliamentary Friendship Association.

Shih declined to comment yesterday.

Later, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) also confirmed the news.

“I asked minister Shih minutes ago whether the news was true … she said she did not tell us earlier because she had not received the official assignment. But she confirmed she would be going to Singapore,” Kuo said.

Kuo praised Shih’s foreign language and communication skills, adding she had all the qualifications to be a representative.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Office declined to confirm that Ma would replace Shih with his former aide, Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓).

Tsai Chung-li (蔡仲禮), director of the Public Affairs Department at the Presidential Office, told reporters yesterday that any personnel reshuffle would be dealt with by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Reports said Su, who served as Taoyuan County Government commissioner for the Environmental Protection Department, had been tapped by Ma to take over from Shih.

Su, 32, was hand-picked by Ma to serve as KMT spokesman and spokesman for Ma’s presidential campaign. Although it was widely speculated that he would follow Ma to the presidential office following his election in March, Su returned to his former post at the Taoyuan County Government.

“So far, the only thing that’s certain is my wedding [tomorrow] ... It’s still too early for me to say anything,” Su said yesterday.

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