Minister of foreign affairs not privy to all projects, Huang says

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Jul 26, 2006 - Page 3

Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) said yesterday that just because he had no personal knowledge of a secret diplomatic undertaking with Australia in 2004 and last year did not mean that the project did not exist.

Huang was referring to the so-called "South Route Project" referred to by a mysterious source in the Presidential Office. According to the source, the government commissioned an investor based in Australia to work to enhance the relationship between Taiwan and that country.

The source made the "revelation" after Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) last Thursday accused the Presidential Office of submitting falsified receipts for reimbursement under its special allowances expenditure budget.

Chiu alleged that these receipts, issued originally to an Australian-based Taiwanese designer, were used by first lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) to seek reimbursement for her own expenses.

Huang, who was deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office before becoming the foreign minister in January, said last Thursday that he had never heard of a "South Route Project."

Chiu said that Huang's ignorance of the project proved that it had never existed, but was something the Presidential Office had cooked up to explain away the falsified receipts.

However, Huang said yesterday that secret diplomatic missions were frequently controlled by individuals abroad, who were responsible only to a limited number of officials directly involved in the project.

Huang said that although he wasn't personally involved in the project and had no knowledge of it, this did not mean that it had not existed.

He said that the three top presidential officials -- the presidential secretary-general and his two deputies -- were constantly involved in overseeing confidential diplomatic undertakings, many of which involved work by single individuals abroad. It was quite plausible, he said, that one official would have no knowledge of another's secret projects.

"The assertions by some media outlets and an opposition politician that the fact that the foreign minister was not aware of the `South Route Project' proves that there was no such thing are false," Huang said.

"It is normal that not many people know about the `South Route Project.' Actually, it would be abnormal if too many people knew about it," Huang said.