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Taiwanese president encounters stormy weather on Latin American trip

Taiwanese president encounters stormy weather on Latin American trip

Taiwan's president returned home this week from visits to allies without hoped-for support for his government's United Nations bid and facing criticism from a top U.S. diplomat.
The setbacks came at a bad time for Chen Shui-bian, who is trying to punch holes in rival China's diplomatic embargo of the island as he moves to secure his presidential legacy in the final year of his second four-year term.
A statement issued at the end of Chen's Latin American tour made no mention of the U.N. bid after allies Panama and the Dominican Republic refused to insert language supporting it into the text.
Instead, the statement focused on economic cooperation, a code word for large infusions of Taiwanese cash for the mostly poverty-stricken Latin American nations in return for diplomatic recognition.
Chen also faced unusually harsh criticism from the U.S., Taiwan's chief ally and provider of defensive weaponry.
The president's plans to hold a referendum on the U.N. bid were a "mistake" that could inflame tensions in the Taiwan Strait, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said in an interview Monday with a pro-Beijing Hong Kong television station.
"This is a time for the authorities in Taiwan to behave in a responsible manner," Negroponte said.
China's Foreign Ministry said it "appreciated" Negroponte's comments and again derided Chen's campaign to assert Taiwanese sovereignty as "doomed to failure."
Unlike in the past, Chen's latest U.N. bid uses the name Taiwan, rather than its official name, the Republic of China.
That has infuriated Beijing, which sees it as another in a series of Chen attempts to push the envelope on formalizing Taiwan's de facto independence _ a circumstance it says will lead to war.
Washington also showed its pique over the referendum at the outset of Chen's Latin American trip, confining him to a transit stop in relatively isolated Anchorage, Alaska.
On previous Latin American visits, Chen was allowed access to major American cities like Los Angeles or Houston.
Chen showed his own anger at the move, calling it a "punishment" aimed at Taiwan's 23 million people.
The transit snub and Negroponte's comments underscored a real chill in Taiwan's relations with the U.S. and highlighted American concerns over the possibility of an armed confrontation in the western Pacific, said Alexander Huang of Taipei's Tamkang University.
"The U.S. is focused in the Middle East ... so it does not want any trouble in this area," Huang said.
Chen insists he has no interest in provoking a fight with China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory and threatens to recover it by force if necessary.
He has frequently criticized Beijing's deployment of more than 800 missiles aimed at military and civilian installations on the island, and says that a decade-long Chinese military buildup is intended to bolster its ability to carry out an invasion.
The sides split amid civil war in 1949 and Beijing has expended ever-greater resources on isolating Taiwan, whittling the island's diplomatic allies to a mere 24 and blocking Taiwanese membership in the U.N. and other international organizations.
Earlier this year, Beijing convinced longtime Taiwanese partner Costa Rica to switch diplomatic recognition, spurring Taiwan's leadership into a desperate attempt at damage control.
Chen's visit to Latin America was part of that effort, and Latin American media were quick to mine the competition for humor and satire.
One Honduran newspaper ran a cartoon of Chen extending one hand in friendship toward Honduran President Manuel Zelaya Zelaya, while the other, clutching a large bag of money, was hidden behind his back.


Updated : 2020-12-04 22:49 GMT+08:00