Taiwan will continue applying a “surprise-free” policy toward US relations, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said yesterday, stressing that this month’s controversial raising of a Republic of China (ROC) flag in Washington was an “isolated incident.”
“We will continue our low-profile, surprise-free policy on ties with the US,” Lin told the Central News Agency when asked for an update on bilateral communications in the wake of the flag-raising, which drew protests from Beijing and statements of disapproval from Washington.
Lin said Taiwan and the US will continue communicating in both Taipei and Washington and that Taiwan will avoid making any move that could harm mutual trust.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday denied reports that US officials had asked for Taiwan’s representative in Washington to be replaced over the incident.
On Jan. 1, the ROC flag was raised during a New Year’s Day ceremony at Twin Oaks, the historic residence of Taiwan’s representative. It is the first time the flag has flown at the estate since Dec. 31, 1978, the day before Washington formally switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.
Hailed in Taipei as a breakthrough and a sign of the warm relationship between Taiwan and the US, the flag-raising was contentious because the estate was the former residence of ROC ambassadors to the US and still belongs to the Taiwanese government.
Washington sees the estate as a “representative compound” rather than a private home, with a US Department of State spokesperson saying on Tuesday that holding the ceremony there “violated our longstanding understanding on the conduct of our unofficial relations.”
“It is our hope that Taiwan will demonstrate the priority it puts on the US-Taiwan relationship by ensuring that these kinds of things do not happen again,” American Institute in Taiwan spokesman Mark Zimmer said earlier this week.
Zimmer reiterated that the US did not approve of or know about the ceremony in advance.
“The ties between the US and Taiwan remain strong,” he said, but added: “We were disappointed with this action and we hope things like these won’t happen again in the future.”
Representative to the US Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) has said that US authorities had not been informed of the event in advance as an act of “goodwill” to give Washington plausible deniability if Beijing lodged a complaint against the flag-raising.
Shen, who was in Taiwan earlier this week for a legislative hearing to report on the development of Taiwan-US ties, left for Washington on Friday to follow up on the incident, ministry spokeswoman Anna Kao (高安) said yesterday.
Kao also denied a report in the Chinese-language Liberty Times, the Taipei Times’ sister paper, yesterday saying that the US has demanded that Shen be replaced in the wake of the controversy.
“That is absolutely not the case,” Kao said.
The report also said that US President Barack Obama’s administration was to deal with the ministry and the National Security Council directly, presumably until Shen is replaced.
Kao said that the government is maintaining close contact with the US in both Taipei and Washington, adding that the channels of communication are operating well.
Asked to confirm the report, Zimmer would only say that how Taiwan staffs its US office is up to Taipei, not Washington.
The paper said that the incident had put President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration in a bind because, even though the flag-raising irked Beijing and prompted the US administration to speak out against repeating similar acts, it was welcomed by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) supporters at home and by Taiwanese living in the Washington area.
The Ma administration will likely come under criticism if Shen, who is seen as a “patriotic ambassador [representative],” is replaced, the article said.
However, if he stays on at his post, Shen may be bypassed by US officials, much like former representative to the US Benjamin Lu (魯肇忠) was after his handling of then-president Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) historic visit to his alma mater, New York’s Cornell University, in June 1995, the paper said.
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