- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2005

New Year’s message

Foreign diplomats here are sending New Year’s greetings to friends and colleagues that express a mix of hope for 2005 and shock at the humanitarian disaster spawned by the Indian Ocean tsunami that marked the end of the old year.

David Tawei Lee, the representative from the Republic of China (Taiwan), said the Dec. 26 earthquake and tidal waves “give us pause in what is traditionally a time for reflection and renewal.”

“The hearts of Taiwan’s 23 million people go out to the victims of this great calamity, and the Taiwan government has pledged $50 million to assist in relief efforts for the area,” he wrote.

Mr. Lee said Taiwan’s top priority for 2005 remained a desire for peaceful relations with its giant neighbor, communist China, which claims sovereignty over the island.

“A new year means a new start and the infinite opportunities that come with it,” Mr. Lee said.

Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato, in a New Year’s message that the Japanese Embassy distributed yesterday, reiterated the value that Japan places on relations with the United States.

“This new year marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War,” Mr. Kato wrote. “Sixty years ago, as a defeated nation, Japan faced a crisis of its very survival as a country. But after the war, thanks to the support of the United States and the international community, Japan restored democracy and miraculously sparked economic recovery.”

Japan, he noted, is “increasingly taking on more and more” international responsibilities. He cited Japan’s decision to maintain its 550 noncombat troops in Iraq. Japan also has pledged $500 million in aid to the victims of the tsunami.

“We understand how very important it is for both Japan and the United States, two countries that share the values such as freedom and democracy, to continue to build upon this vital partnership in equal measure toward dealing with terrorism and the new problems that are challenging the international community,” he said.

Still No. 1

Hong Kong diplomats cheered yesterday at the news that communist China’s free-market enclave still has the freest economy in the world, according to an annual report by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal.

The Index of Economic Freedom has ranked Hong Kong at the top of its international survey for each of the 11 years that the study has been published.

“I am delighted to hear that the prestigious Heritage Foundation has once again acknowledged Hong Kong’s commitment to free trade,” said Jacqueline Willis, Hong Kong’s commissioner to the United States.

“The Hong Kong Special Administration Region government remains firmly dedicated to preserving Hong Kong’s free-market status, which is upheld by the rule of law and driven by the Hong Kong people’s robust entrepreneurial spirit.”

Ukrainian example

A former U.S. ambassador to Romania predicts that the Ukrainian presidential election will help inspire pro-democracy advocates in other former Soviet republics still under authoritarian rule.

The victory by Viktor Yushchenko in last month’s electoral rerun is a “big deal not just for Ukraine but for democracy throughout Eurasia,” said James Rosapepe, who served in Romania from 1998 to 2001.

Supporters of the pro-Western Mr. Yushchenko forced a new election through massive street protests in December. The country’s Supreme Court threw out the November election because of fraud by supporters of pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych.

Mr. Rosapepe said Mr. Yushchenko’s victory will “inspire emulation in other places such as Belarus, Uzbekistan and even in Russia.”

The former ambassador, now a private consultant, added, “All who feared that most of the former Soviet Union was slipping back into authoritarianism now have reason for hope.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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