Sun, Apr 03, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Former president Lee Teng-hui had a ‘secret’ message for Richard Armitage

By J. Michael Cole  /  Staff Reporter

Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had information he wanted to share with a visiting former US official earlier last week, but he did not feel comfortable doing so in the presence of Taiwanese government officials, the Taipei Times has learned.

Lee on Monday met with Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state during former US president George W. Bush’s first term in office, during the latter’s visit to Taiwan.

Prior to the meeting, Lee allegedly said that as some Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials would be present during their meeting, he would pass on a message to Armitage in the form of a letter. He allegedly said he could not trust some of the ministry officials and that his discussion would center on general topics like Japan.

As the body responsible for relations with current and retired officials from other countries, it is customary for the ministry to accompany delegations and provide transportation, as well as make arrangements for meetings with Taiwanese officials.

Armitage, who has retained some influence in Washington despite his retirement from government service, was heading a delegation of academics from the Project 2049 Institute, a US-based think tank.

A source close to the former US State Department official who accompanied him on his visit confirmed to the Taipei Times on Wednesday that Lee had given him a letter. The source, who was privy to the contents of the letter — which consisted of a few pages — said it touched on the former president’s apprehensions about the future of Taiwan and the direction of cross-strait talks under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration.

In one section of his missive, Lee, who was expelled from the KMT in 2001 for his pro-independence views, reportedly says that if President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) were re-elected next year, the future of Taiwan as an independent country would be very much in doubt.

Armitage left Taiwan on Wednesday while the rest of his delegation remained in Taiwan for further meetings.

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