- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2000

Chen explains remarks

Stephen Chen, Taiwan's unofficial ambassador in Washington, has created what one observer called a diplomatic "uproar" at home by remarks he insists he did not even make.

Mr. Chen was quoted last week by the Taiwanese newspaper, the China Times, as criticizing Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui for calling for equal status with communist China in future relations. Embassy Row yesterday also reported on the remarks attributed to him.

His predicament deepened on Sunday when the Taipei Times demanded he resign, calling him out of step with Taiwan's new political climate.

"Chen's statements are presently causing quite an uproar in Taiwan and may in all likelihood cost him his job," said Mei-chin Chen, editor of the Washington-based Taiwan Communique.

Mr. Chen yesterday told Embassy Row the whole flap is one giant misunderstanding.

"The press did not understand my remarks or misquoted me," he said.

Mr. Chen returned to Taipei last week to report to the legislature on the status of Taiwanese-U.S. relations.

He said he was only explaining that the Clinton administration was upset when Mr. Lee made his remarks in July without first alerting Washington.

U.S. officials reacted by reasserting the "one-China policy" that views Taiwan as part of China.

"I have a duty not to report just the good news," Mr. Chen said.

He added, "My report was a written report. I don't understand how this mistake could have been made."

His report explained that "from the perspective of the U.S., our government presented the [new] formulation … without prior consultation with the U.S."

"As far as the U.S. is concerned, it has impacted on the mutual trust between the two countries," his report added.

Mr. Chen said his duty in the United States is to present the views of the Taiwan government, not to criticize it.

He said he has defended Mr. Lee's statement to "hundreds of congressmen and senators" and many think tanks in Washington.

The Taipei Times, in an editorial headlined "New diplomatic blood needed," called on Mr. Chen to resign.

"Chen clearly is not capable of carrying out the task … he has been assigned and should be replaced immediately," the newspaper said. "And for his insubordination to the president, he should be summarily sacked."

The Times also called Mr. Chen a symbol of an outdated diplomatic corps still wedded to reunification with the mainland instead of the "Taiwan first" philosophy advocated by Mr. Lee.

Taiwan's "diplomatic culture … is populated by people who learned their craft under a regime with vastly different ideas and goals and who have largely proved unable or unwilling to understand the very different country that has evolved over the last decade," the Times said.

Progress on Cyprus?

President Clinton yesterday cited the resumption of talks on Cyprus as "welcome news."

In his periodic report to Congress on Cyprus, Mr. Clinton told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms that the meetings convened last month at the United Nations represented progress toward "a resolution of the long-standing Cyprus dispute."

The talks involved intermediaries between Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot leaders, not face-to-face meetings.

"The goal of these talks is to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem," Mr. Clinton said.

"This welcome news was highlighted during my trip to Turkey and Greece from Nov. 15-20 as a positive step toward bringing about a just and lasting solution for all Cypriots and improving Greek-Turkish relations for a more secure southern Europe."

The Greek Embassy yesterday noted another sign of hope in relations with Turkey in the words of the head of the Greek Orthodox Church.

"We are very optimistic that matters in our region, the Balkans and particularly between Greece and Turkey will go from good to better," Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said in remarks released by the embassy.

He also expressed support for Turkey's desire to join the European Union and urged both governments to take advantage of the thaw in relations.

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