Washington ‘pleased’ with DPP office

REACHING OUT::The appointment of an official DPP representative to Washington has been welcomed, but sources say the US will not become involved in local politics

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 - Page 3

The US government is pleased that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) wants to improve its relationship with Washington and that it has appointed an official representative to the US, but some sources within the administration of US President Barack Obama said there would be “caution” in dealing directly with the opposition party from a democratic state.

“We will not become involved in Taiwan’s internal politics,” one source said of the announcement on Monday that DPP Policy Research Committee executive director Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) would head the office in Washington.

The source said the US would not allow the opening of a DPP office in Washington to upset or interfere with its warm relationship with the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

Wu, a former envoy to Washington under former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), is personally popular in Washington and is well-liked within US diplomatic circles.

However, sources said Wu was unlikely to be given access to top administration figures, such as the US secretary of state or the national security adviser.

US federal government offices were closed on Monday for Veterans Day and officials could not be reached for formal comment.

Sources spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The DPP’s Washington office is expected to open in March or April next year with a staff of no more than three.

Wu is to spend a few days in the office about once every two months and DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) is scheduled to visit the US capital soon after the office opens.

By that time, Obama will have his new secretary of state and national security adviser in place — along with their deputies and senior staff — and Su is expected to meet a senior official.

One source reached by the Taipei Times said the Ma administration’s policies had greatly reduced tension in the Taiwan Strait and that as a result the policies enjoyed “robust” support in Washington.

The US would do nothing, he said, that might undermine or weaken that support.

Relations with the DPP soured under Chen, while former DPP chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was unable to win White House confidence before this year’s elections.

At this point, the White House is pleased that the DPP wants to “reinvigorate” relations with the US, but seems to be taking a wait-and-see attitude about how successful those efforts are likely to be.

The DPP now has full-time Washington liaison officer, Michael Fonte, representing it in Washington while working from home.

Fonte is to remain in his job and work from the new office when it opens early next year.

“I will be part of the team,” he said.

Fonte acknowledged that the opposition parties from other democratic countries generally did not have Washington offices, but insisted that Taiwan is a special case.

“Because the cross-strait issue is such a delicate dance, Taiwan is unique,” he said.

Fonte said the US administration would want to see Wu to learn about the DPP’s China policy and was pleased that the party was serious about good relations with Beijing.

The Chinese embassy in Washington did not return calls asking for comment on the DPP’s plan to open an office in the US capital.