Jason Yuan places better US ties at top of priorities

LOOKING BACK: The incoming representative to the US said relations with Washington had been strained over the past eight years under the Democratic Progressive Party


Wed, Jul 02, 2008 - Page 3

Jason Yuan (袁健生), the nation’s representative-designate to the US, said on Monday his top priority would be to mend fences with the US and rebuild trust.

Yuan, who has been the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party representative to the US since 2004, will soon leave the post and return to Taiwan to be sworn in for his new position.

During a meeting with Taiwanese journalists prior to his return to Taiwan, he said relations with the US had been strained over the past eight years under the Democratic Progressive Party administration.

Quoting President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Yuan said countries should not “play games” with each other — especially Taiwan and the US because the US is one of Taiwan’s strongest allies.

On US media reports that Washington had shelved plans to sell helicopters, submarines and PAC-3 anti-missile batteries to Taiwan and turned down its request to purchase F-16C/D fighters, Yuan said the reports may have surfaced out of concern that the cross-strait military balance could be thrown out of kilter.

Yuan said that exchanges between the defense departments of the two nations do not need to be made public, adding that the US Congress and administration understand Taiwan’s defense needs, urging the media to “wait and see.”

When asked if Taiwan has asked the US to delay sales of military equipment to Taiwan, Yuan said “absolutely not.”

Reports said the KMT administration had made the suggestion to avoid angering China and upsetting negotiations between the two sides on growing economic ties, including the launch of nonstop weekend charter flights across the Taiwan Strait and the expansion of Chinese tourist arrivals in Taiwan.

Yuan said improving Taiwan-US relations was Ma’s policy, adding that Ma had said Taiwan should be a “peacemaker” and not a “troublemaker.”

But Ma also stressed that negotiations would be based on the country’s strength and that Taiwan is determined to strengthen its national defense and increase its national defense budget, Yuan said.

Yuan will assume the post early next month at the latest.

Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), the outgoing representative, is scheduled to leave Washington for Taipei on July 26.

In a statement issued on Monday, Wu, the first DPP member to serve as Taiwan’s top envoy to the US, expressed his appreciation for the support he received during his tenure of one year and three months.