Fri, Dec 30, 2011 - Page 3 News List

2012 ELECTIONS: AIT rebuts ad claiming US backs Ma

NEUTRAL?DPP officials said the government should stop taking the credit for a long-term effort to get Taiwan into a US visa-waiver program that started under the DPP

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) yesterday reiterated the US’ “neutral stance” on the Jan. 14 presidential election in response to a newspaper ad that attributed the recent nomination of Taiwan as a candidate for the US’ Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) “flexible diplomacy” policy.

A government ad was published in three major Chinese-language newspapers yesterday — the -Chinese-language Apple Daily, the United Daily News and the China Times — attributing the nomination of Taiwan to the VWP to the efforts of the Ma government and saying it has taken the Taiwan-US relationship one step further.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), which sponsored the front-page ad, said those achievements were born out of the -“flexible diplomacy” policy.

The ad was the government’s most recent attempt to interpret the nomination, announced by the AIT on Thursday last week — three weeks before the election — as a US endorsement for Ma.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) has said that the move not only signaled the US’ support for Ma because of his approach to cross-strait relations and diplomacy, but would also help Ma win votes from swing voters, middle-class voters and Taiwanese investors in China.

Democratic Progressive Party spokesperson Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said yesterday the ministry should not label a continuous effort by successive administrations as the achievement of the Ma administration’s “flexible diplomacy.”

“We think this has been a breach of administrative neutrality,” he said

Asked by the Taipei Times to comment on what has ensued since the VWP nomination, AIT spokesperson Christopher Kavanagh declined to comment on the political campaign.

“All I have to say is that we have a neutral stance [toward the election]. We don’t have any position on who should win. We are happy to work with whoever the people of Taiwan elect in January,” Kavanagh said.

The US decision pertaining to the nomination of Taiwan to the VWP was clearly stated at a press conference held by AIT Acting Director Eric Madison on Thursday last week, Kavanagh said.

When announcing the nomination, Madison said the announcement was made on that day simply because Taiwan had fulfilled all statutory requirements for VWP nomination on the previous day and that the timing of the announcement had nothing to do with the election.

Kavanagh said he learned about the ad on Wednesday before he left his office when a newspaper contacted him for comment, adding that he was not aware whether there had been any contact between the ministry and the AIT about the ad before its publication yesterday.

Additional reporting by Chris Wang

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