Lu's trip shows Taipei's new tactic

MAKING SPACE: The government is taking a tougher line with its trade partners, as can be seen by the vice president's success in meeting with officials in Jakarta

By Lin Chieh-yu and Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Mon, Aug 19, 2002 - Page 3

Vice President Annette Lu's (呂秀蓮) trip to Jakarta last week marks a shift in the Taiwanese government's tactics in dealing with China's attempts to isolate it in the international community, sources said yesterday.

Sources from the Presidential Office said that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was satisfied with Lu's performance in demonstrating Taiwan's national strength and its unwillingness to be treated unfairly by other countries.

"For fear of being regarded by the international community as a troublemaker, Taiwan in the past has often yielded to other nations' unfair treatment whenever they complained about pressure from Beijing," a source, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the Taipei Times yesterday.

"But now, Taiwan no longer wants to accept such unfair treatment," the source said.

Apparently as a result of opposition from China, Indonesia denied Lu entry to its capital, Jakarta, on Wednesday, forcing the vice president to fly on to Bali after waiting in the airport at Jakarta for two hours.

The source said that the Indonesian government had privately apologized and asked Taiwan to understand the difficult position it was in.

"But we did not accept [the apology]," the source said. "We made it clear that we would not tolerate the Indonesian government's move just because it said that it was under pressure from Beijing."

On Friday, Indonesia appeared to relent. Lu was allowed to enter Jakarta and met with congressmen and other former and incumbent government officials before flying back to Taiwan on Saturday.

"China can not make decisions for Taiwan," the source added. "If the Indonesian government wants to have any contact with Taiwan, it has to squarely face the existence of Taiwanese authority."

Insiders commented that Taiwan's government had a number of bargaining chips which it could use to negotiate with the Indonesians.

One issue is Taiwan's ban on the importation of Indonesian laborers, which it announced on July 31. Lu apparently met with Indonesia's labor minister to discuss the matter while she was in Bali.

Taiwan is also considering buying liquefied natural gas (LNG) worth NT$400 billion (US$11.79 billion) from Indonesia.

Hsueh Yi-cheng (薛義誠), a close aide to the vice president, said that the possible LNG purchase had been discussed but that nothing had been decided.

Nevertheless, the DPP has judged the trip to be a success, despite Lu's initial setback.

DPP Legislator Parris Chang (張旭成) said that it had been a very "creative diplomatic trip" and that Taiwan should launch other similar diplomatic initiatives.

"Lu's four-day trip to Indonesia was a very successful diplomatic breakthrough," said Chang, who also serves as the convener of Legislature Yuan's Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee. "It has made Beijing lose face."

Nevertheless, Chang cautioned that further diplomatic initiatives would have to be carefully planned and conducted as part of a coherent strategy.

The Indonesia trip might also boost Lu's chances of securing her place as Chen's running mate in the 2004 presidential election.