- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2000

Taiwan's new envoy

Chen Chien-jen, one of the architects of Taiwan's special and highly nuanced relationship between Taipei and Washington for the past two decades, stepped off a United Air Lines flight to Washington and into the waiting arms of more than a hundred Taiwanese well-wishers.

The Washington Times' assistant foreign editor, Gus Constantine, a veteran China-watcher, was there Friday and filed this report.

It took almost an hour for the new director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative's Office, Taiwan's shadow embassy here, to show his appreciation by shaking the hands of all those who showed up.

More important than the instant constituency that assembled for his arrival is the fact that Mr. Chen is in Washington as a symbol of continuity in a political landscape radically transformed by the ouster of the Kuomintang, or Nationalist, Party, from power by President Chen Shui-bian, who ran under the banner of the rival Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The new director general is at the epicenter of Kuomintang politics, having served as information chief, foreign minister and other key posts under Nationalist rule. His appointment to manage Taiwan's most important external relationship is yet another sign of the new president's determination to portray himself as a unifier and conciliator in Taiwan's domestic and foreign relations as well.

The choice came from the same outreach mind-set that made another Kuomintang stalwart, Tang Fei, the defense minister.

Predictably Mr. Chen's appointment did not escape controversy, particularly among overseas Chinese from Taiwan.

For many of them, who for years supported the DPP's rallying cry of Taiwan independence, the appointment of such a prominent Kuomintang member to such an important job was hardly what they had in mind when they challenged the party of Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek and his son and successor, Chiang Ching-kuo.

From its flight to Taiwan from a lost civil war on the mainland the Kuomintang has insisted that there is only one China, even though it is presently divided between two governments.

Korean envoy departs

South Korean Ambassador Lee Hong-koo arrived in Washington more than two years ago during what he described as "somewhat extraordinary circumstances."

"At the end of 1997, Korea was unexpectedly engulfed in the Asian financial crisis. Most Koreans, including the newly elected president, Kim Dae-jung, felt it was the most dangerous challenge to our security and survival since the Korean War a half century ago," Mr. Lee wrote in a goodbye letter to Embassy Row.

The ambassador, who is leaving at the end of the month, recalled that his job was to "present a united front in Washington to expedite our economic recovery."

North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile in 1998 "and the lingering suspicion of a North Korean nuclear project also created a security crisis," he wrote.

However, last month's summit between Mr. Kim and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has "more or less" eased fears in the South, Mr. Lee said.

[The U.S. ambassador to South Korea sees the situation as much riskier. See the next item.]

The U.S.-South Korean relationship "is better than ever," Mr. Lee added.

"The Korean economy has made a remarkable comeback since, and therefore my job is more or less done… .

"The time has come for me to go home and enjoy well-earned rest," he wrote.

Yang Sung-chul, a political scientist, will replace Mr. Lee.

Defending South Korea

U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Stephen Bosworth says American troops will remain in the country because communist North Korea still poses a threat, despite the recent thaw in relations between the two Koreas.

"We are here because people and the government of South Korea feel threatened," he said in a interview with South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

"As long as that sense of threat continues, we will remain here as we are now."

He noted that last month's North-South summit meeting was "a very important strategic change" but did not change the need for the 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea.

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