Relations between Taiwan and Singapore made huge leaps forward during her tenure as representative to the city-state, Vice Foreign Minister Vanessa Shih (史亞平) said yesterday, but she did not talk about allegations that her conduct on several occasions had soured relations between the two countries or about her claims that ties were in good condition.
Shih was at the center of various reports detailing incidents that had allegedly harmed the countries’ bilateral relationship during her time in Singapore from January 2009 to February this year. Shih sat down with the press yesterday to clarify “rumors” that “had no basis in fact” and reassure public that diplomatic relations were in good condition.
During the 90-minute talk, Shih did not elaborate in her rebuttal to the reported problems in bilateral relations during her three-year term, nor did she elaborate on the “significant progress” that has been made in the period.
She said there are many things between Taiwan and Singapore that cannot be made public, “even though they are good things.”
“Not all things that cannot be placed on record are bad,” she said.
It has been standard practice in the two countries’ bilateral dealings, she said, adding: “We don’t put diplomacy under a media spotlight.”
Citing as an example the recent announcement that Taiwan has signed an investment agreement with Japan, Shih said if such a deal is signed between Taiwan and Singapore, it might not be as open.
“It’s out of the question that we disclose all information to the media,” Shih added, “but whatever I do, I have only one position, which is to safeguard the interests and dignity of the nation and to accomplish the missions conferred upon me.”
Shih was transferred back to Taipei in late February and promoted to vice minister late last month despite criticism from local media about issues ranging from her political and diplomatic dealings with Singaporean politicians to personal matters.
Shih said she had asked Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) in August last year to be allowed to return to Taiwan once she completed the tasks assigned to her when she was dispatched to Singapore, one of her reasons being that “I had been posted overseas for nine years in the past decade.”
One of the incidents that reportedly led to the alleged problem in Taiwan-Singapore ties was the nomenclature for the Double Ten National Day ceremony last year.
Some alleged that Shih irritated Singapore by breaking the rules of the city-state, which maintains a “one China policy,” banning the raising of the Republic of China’s (ROC) national flag or the singing of the ROC national anthem outdoors.
Shih denied the event was held outdoors, saying the ceremony took place at the Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, “as proved by photos.”
Shih’s critics alleged that she was disliked so intensely by the Singaporean government that the tension did not thaw until former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) took advantage of the APEC summit last November to intercede with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) on behalf of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Ma’s earlier attempts to send either former National Security Council secretary-general Su Chi (蘇起) or former presidential advisor Ding Mou-shih (丁懋時) to Singapore to resolve the tension failed, reportedly because he had rejected Singapore’s request to replace Shih.