The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday downplayed reports that the government paid US$140,000 to a consultancy affiliated with former US senator Bob Dole, allegedly in exchange for his efforts to help establish high-level contact between Taiwanese officials and US president-elect Donald Trump’s staff that culminated in a historic telephone call between President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Trump on Friday last week.
Dole has long been a significant friend of Taiwan who has assisted with communications between Taipei and the US Republican Party, the ministry said in a statement.
“The government is grateful for Dole’s strong friendship and adamant support,” the ministry said, declining to comment on a New York Times report that identified Dole as the facilitator of the call.
However, a few hours later, the ministry revised its position on Dole’s reported role, saying that none of the consultancies hired by the government played a part in setting up the call.
“It has been customary practice for the government to hire consultant firms to lobby for the nation. All related budgets have been subjected to legislative scrutiny and conformed with US laws,” the ministry said, citing as an example the representative office in the US’ retaining of Dole’s Washington-based law firm, Alston & Bird, since February 2003.
Citing documents filed with the US Department of Justice’s National Security Division as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the New York Times on Tuesday reported that Alston & Bird had from May to October received US$140,000 from the government to coordinate with Trump’s campaign to set up a series of meetings.
“The disclosures suggest that Trump’s decision to take a call from the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, was less a ham-handed diplomatic gaffe and more the result of a well-orchestrated plan by Taiwan to use the election of a new president to deepen its relationship with the United States — with an assist from a seasoned lobbyist well versed in the machinery of Washington,” the report said.
Separately yesterday, the Presidential Office criticized the report as incorrect and misleading, saying that the documents it cited did not include any specific plans about the Tsai-Trump call.
“The process to set up the telephone call between President Tsai and president-elect Trump followed standing procedure,” the office said, adding that it was not permitted to comment on the process nor details.
However, former minister of foreign affairs Chen Chien-jen (程建人) said the nation has been cultivating lobbyists in Washington for decades, investing in eight to 10 firms every year, and "[Taiwan's investing in public relations firms] is not a thing that emerged only in recent days," adding that the representative office in the US has had contract with this reported firm for at least ten years.
Lobbying is a prevalent practice in Washington, with tens of thousands of firms involved, Chen said, adding that Taiwan’s investment was “normal” compared with that of other nations, including Japan, Israel, China and other nations in the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) called the report groundless, saying it was meant to blemish the Tsai-Trump call.
“The funds were for normal lobbying efforts and had nothing to do with the call,” Lo said, dismissing the possibility of the government spending money on lobbying just for a single telephone call.
Additional reporting by Chung Li-hua
LAND ALERT UNCERTAIN: The CWB was waiting to observe how In-Fa shifts as it moves north to determine when to issue a land alert, a forecaster at the bureau said Residents of northern Taiwan should brace for heavy rain today and tomorrow as Typhoon In-Fa approaches the northeast, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said yesterday. A land alert for the typhoon would be issued depending on the angle at which it moves north today, the bureau said. The bureau on Wednesday issued a sea alert for the typhoon, which applies to ships operating off the nation’s northern, northeastern and southeastern coasts. As of 8:30pm yesterday, In-Fa’s center was 470km southeast of Taipei, moving northwest at 6kph. It was carrying maximum sustained winds of 180kph, and had a radius of 200km. The typhoon was moving
TARGET RAISED: The CECC said vaccination coverage has reached 24.35%, while Premier Su Tseng-chang said the government hopes for 30% by the end of July The government has signed a contract to buy an additional 36 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, 1 million of which are to be delivered in the fourth quarter, the Executive Yuan announced yesterday, as it updated its vaccination target to 30 percent coverage by the end of the month. The two-year deal with the US company covers “prime series” vaccines and future booster shots to protect against SARS-CoV-2 variants, Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) quoted Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) as saying during an Executive Yuan meeting in Taipei. In the two weeks since vaccine registration opened, more than 9.8
NEXT ROUND: About 1.44 million people who have registered online to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine are to get text messages today to book a vaccine appointment Strict border control measures, including a ban on foreign nationals entering or transiting through Taiwan, are to continue, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, as it reported 10 locally transmitted COVID-19 infections and no deaths. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said five of the cases tested positive during isolation or upon ending it. The sources of infection of eight cases have been identified, one remains unclear and one is under investigation, he said, adding that 87.8 percent of the people infected with COVID-19 since May 11 have been released from isolation. Chen said an
BREAKING RECORDS: Kuo Hsing-chun’s snatch, clean and jerk, and combined lifts were all Olympic records, although well off her combined world record Taiwanese weightlifter Kuo Hsing-chun (郭婞淳) yesterday completed her elusive quest for Olympic gold, clinching Taiwan’s first win at the Tokyo Games as she set Olympic records in the women’s under-59kg weight class. Kuo, who has not lost a major competition in her weight class since the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she was hampered by injury and finished third, finally chased down the gold medal that had long remained just out of her grasp. The 27-year-old finished with a combined lift of 236kg — 103kg in the snatch and 133kg in the clean and jerk — 21kg more