Taiwan's new envoy to the U.S. is battling rumors that he had a homosexual relationship with the president of the democratic island nation, a longtime political ally and strong supporter of gay rights in the country formally known as the Republic of China.
"I am not gay," King Pu-tsung told a Taiwanese legislative committee in late December when he returned home to deliver a report on U.S.-Taiwan diplomatic relations.
A colleague in the ruling Kuomintang party, lawmaker Liao Cheng-ching, posed the question about Mr. King's sexual orientation to give the new diplomat "a chance to clarify the matter," according to reports in the Taipei Times.
However, an opposition lawmaker from the Democratic Progressive Party, Pasuya Yao, insisted the Mr. King respond to rumors that President Ma Ying-jeou is gay.
"It's not a question I should answer," Mr. King replied during a hearing of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
In June, Mr. King, who is married, dismissed rumors of a sexual affair with Mr. Ma when reporters asked if he was considering filing a lawsuit against news organizations that reported on the speculation.
"My wife is such a beautiful woman that not even a high school graduate would believe [that I'm gay]. I respect each individual's sexual orientation, but I'm not 'Brokeback,'" he said, referring to the 2005 film "Brokeback Mountain" about two gay cowboys.
Mr. King has a long political relationship with Mr. Ma and is considered the president's most important adviser.
The 56-year-old diplomat served as secretary-general of the Kuomintang party from 2009 to 2011 and as vice mayor of Taiwan's capital, Taipei, from 2002 to 2006. He assumed his duties as head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington on Dec. 1.
Rumors about Mr. Ma's sexual orientation surfaced during the 2008 presidential race, when his political opposition claimed to have a sex video of Mr. Ma and a male American disc jockey who once worked in Taiwan.
After his election, Mr. Ma called the rumor "groundless."
"There's nothing to it," he said.
Former President Chen Shui-bian, who was convicted on corruption charges in 2009, claimed in court testimony that Mr. Ma's political opponents had planned to release the sex video during the campaign, but a prosecutor blocked them. Chen later was sentenced to life in prison, but his term was reduced to 20 years on an appeal.
Taiwan remains one of the most liberal Asian nations on homosexual issues. Gay sex is legal, but homosexual marriage is not recognized.
Mr. Ma, who also is married, was a strong proponent of gay issues when he served as mayor of Taipei from 1998 to 2006.
"He was the first politician to support gay rights in Taiwan," Nelson Chen, a Taiwanese gay activist, told the Gay Star News in October. "But Ma hasn't said anything about same-sex marriage since he's been elected president because he's worried people will think he is gay."
New in Libya
A career diplomat and Middle East specialist has arrived in Libya to take over the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, nearly four months after terrorists killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
William Roebuck, the new charge d'affaires, has served at U.S. embassies in Israel, Iraq and Syria. He most recently was director for the Office of Maghreb Affairs, which covers Arab nations in North Africa.
"Mr. Roebuck looks forward to working with the Libyan government and the Libyan people, as we continue to build the relationship between our two countries during this historic time," a statement from the embassy in Tripoli said.
Mr. Stevens and the other Americans were killed when heavily armed militants stormed the consulate on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S.
• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email email@example.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.