Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lu Yen-hsun stopped by Djokovic in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Taipei, June 30 (CNA) Taiwanese tennis player Lu Yen-hsun lost to the world No. 3 Novak Djokovic of Serbia in straight sets Wednesday, which stopped Lu short of the semifinal in the 2010 Wimbledon Tennis Championship.

Lu, 26, appeared not be in top form, as he lost 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and 51 minutes to the third-seeded Djokovic.

Djokovic, the 2008 Australian Open winner, was almost flawless in the match, blasting 29 winners over Lu's 13.

Despite being eliminated, Lu, who is currently ranked 82nd in the world, is expected to make the top 50 in the latest world ranking for the first time in his career with his berth in the Wimbledon quarterfinal.

Lu scored a marathon upset early Tuesday when he beat the world No. 7 Andy Roddick of the U.S. and became the first Taiwanese tennis player to advance to the quarterfinal round in a Grand Slam tournament.

According to Wimbledon broadcaster STAR TV, around 620,000 fans stayed up Tuesday to watch Lu's epic win over Roddick, which made headlines on almost every television news channel and in newspapers in Taiwan. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

EU lauds signing of Taiwan-China trade agreement

Taipei, June 30 (CNA) The European Union (EU) lauded the "constructive measures" Taiwan and China have taken with the signing of a historical trade agreement, saying Wednesday that the pact will contribute to regional stability.

"The European Union believes that the expansion of cross-strait economic relations has a potential also to benefit the development of its already significant trade and investment links in East Asia, " said Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for foreign affairs and security policy.

The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) , signed Tuesday in Chongqing, China, aims to liberalize cross-strait trade by reducing tariffs, relaxing trade regulations and allowing better market access.

The Taiwan government has said it hopes that the pact will boost the country's economy and employment and prevent it from being marginalized in the economic integration process in East Asia.

In a statement issued the day after the signing of the ECFA, Ashton reiterated that, in the context of the EU's one-China policy, the EU believes that the "Taiwan question" must be resolved through dialogue between all concerned parties.

Ashton said she appreciates and supports the efforts of both sides to find pragmatic solutions and peacefully develop relations. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

AIT welcomes ECFA signing, denies arm sales notification suspensions

Taipei, June 30 (CNA) The United States welcomes the signing of a historical cross-Taiwan Strait trade agreement and its policy on arm sales to Taiwan remains unchanged, the top U.S. diplomat in Taiwan said Wednesday.

"We welcome the kind of interaction between Taiwan and the mainland that leads to an agreement like this which can contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in the region. We're encouraged by this development, " said William Stanton, Director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Taipei Office, on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), which was signed by Taiwanese and Chinese officials in Chongqing, China Tuesday.

The agreement, which still has to be reviewed by Taiwan’s legislature before going into effect, aims to liberalize cross-Strait trade with measures including reduce tariffs, relax trade regulations and allow market access to each other.

Stanton said that the AIT, the U.S. representative office in Taiwan, has“no comments on the agreement per se because we haven't read the complete texts and haven't had the chance to study it, ”but in general the U.S. would like to emphasize the positive development of the pact since it indicates“a level of interaction and cooperation that's welcomed by the region and the world.” He went on to deny a report in a U.S.-based Defense News magazine, which cited sources in Washington and Taipei and reported that the U.S. State Department has frozen three congressional notifications for new arm sales to Taiwan.

“No matter what the press may say, we abide by the TRA and what stipulated there. We continue on a regular basis to assess Taiwan's needs and to act with accordance to the assessment. Nothing's changed in our policy on arms sales to Taiwan,”he said.

Stanton noted that there is no“schedule”in terms of notification, which will only occur“when you need to notify the Congress because the arm sale is going to take place.” “So until that happens -- until the U.S. government makes a decision -- there's no notification. I think there's a misunderstanding,“he added.

The U.S. announced January 29 that it planned to sell US$6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan, which subsequently sparked China’s protest.

According to the Defense News report, three notifications have been frozen to until spring next year but the contents of those notifications were not confirmed. It also reported that a program to upgrade Taiwan’s aging F-16 A/B fighter aircraft was not included in the freeze as it has yet to enter the notification stage.

(By Chris Wang) enditem

AIT head proud of Taiwanese player's Wimbledon win

Taipei, June 30 (CNA) The top U.S. official in Taiwan said Wednesday that he is proud of Taiwanese tennis player Lu Yen-hsun's win in the fourth round of the Wimbledon tennis championship.

Unseeded Lu, ranked No. 82 in the world, upset American world No. 7 and fifth-seeded Andy Roddick in five sets to become the first Taiwanese male tennis player in history to advance to the quarterfinals in a grand slam event.

Even though Lu beat his compatriot, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Taipei Office Director William Stanton said that "I'm very happy for Taiwan. I know the Taiwan people must be very proud. I'm very proud for you." Stanton was speaking on the sidelines of the 2010 America Month, an event focused on U.S. product promotion.

"Now Taiwan is not only known for its technological and commercial prowess but also is coming to the top of the world in athletics," Stanton said.

Lu is scheduled to meet world No. 3 Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the quarterfinals at 8 p.m. Wednesday Taiwan time. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Soccer fever in Taiwan during 2010 World Cup

Hundreds of fans have packed more than a dozen outdoor beer bars in Taiwan's southern city of Tainan, their eyes glued to the TV screens broadcasting the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament.

In the capital city of Taipei, many restaurants have also been trying to ride the World Cup fever by setting up big-screen TVs to show live broadcasts and attract customers.

Media coverage of the tourney has increased dramatically in newspapers and on the TV news since May, and thousands of fans have been staying up to watch late-night live broadcasts since the tournament kicked off June 12.

The extensive coverage has largely eclipsed the scintillating performance of Lu Yen-hsun, who became the first Taiwanese tennis player to advance to the quarterfinal of the Wimbledon tennis tournament early Tuesday.

The phenomenon is unusual in the "soccer desert, " as Taiwan is called by local soccer fans, because soccer is a minor sport in Taiwan, where baseball and basketball are the most popular sports, and its national team ranks way down at 167 in the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) world rankings.

Taiwanese cable television operators carry limited soccer broadcasts of the top divisions such as the English Premier League and the European Champions League, but the ratings do not fare well due to lack of attention and the time difference.

That is why it's surprising to discover that World Cup matches have received relative success in Taiwan, where a 1.0 television rating is usually considered "above average" for any program.

"TV ratings of almost all the 10 p.m. games have surpassed 2.0 with a peak rating of 2.4, " said Su Chi-hui, a producer at Era Television, the exclusive local carrier of this year's World Cup competition. Su added that most of the games aired at 2: 30 a.m. have registered ratings of at least 0.8 percent.

"Keep in mind that those ratings were just for the group stage games, because the latest ratings have not yet been announced, " he added.

Viewership has been much better than the last World Cup four years ago when it was held in Germany, he went on. TV ratings at that time did not exceed 2.0 until the knockout stage of the final 16. Su said he expected the ratings to be even higher in the later stages of this year's cup.

But die-hard soccer fans who regularly follow the game dismissed the phenomenon of the "soccer madness every four years, " saying that the fad -- including the extensive media coverage and high TV ratings -- comes and goes quickly.

World Cup fever has become a norm, but is unrelated to the development of the game, according to local fans.

"Actually, it's not that unusual. We've seen this pattern every four years. It happened in 2002 and again in 2006, when almost everyone was talking about soccer for one month. It's happening again this year," said Clement Tsai, a soccer fan.

"The next thing you know, no-one cares about the sport once the World Cup is over," Tsai said.

Despite the disgruntled fans, soccer fever has hit the island on almost every front. And Taiwan is not exactly just an observer on the sidelines, as local textile manufacturers have supplied strips made from recycled materials for nine of the teams this year, according to the European Parliament magazine published recently.

Brazil, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United States, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Serbia and Slovakia are all wearing the Taiwan-made strips, which are made from 13 million recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.

Off the pitch, meanwhile, Taiwanese politicians have not missed out on the most talked-about feature of this year's World Cup -- the vuvuzela, a raucous plastic horn blown by the fans that has become a symbol of South African soccer.

Gao Jyh-peng, a legislator of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) , took notice of the trend and picked up the instrument in a June 26 rally in Taipei to protest against a trade agreement to be signed this week between Taiwan and China.

Acknowledging that the 200 vuvuzelas he bought were made in China, Gao was quoted by Agence Presse France as saying that "we'll beat them with their own medicine." Other representatives of the DPP also used 100 "Taiwanese vuvuzelas" -- actually the traditional suona -- to make noise during the rally.

At the same time, legislators from the ruling Kuomintang, which favors the trade pact, have described the signing of the agreement as "scoring a goal." President Ma Ying-jeou also referred to the quadrennial event, telling reporters June 15 that he played soccer in high school almost four decades ago. However, he also said soccer is unsuitable for Asians because Asians are "physically inferior to the bigger and stronger Westerners." Ma apparently was unaware that Japan, South Korea and North Korea are all playing in the 2010 World Cup.

The comment drew criticism from Lin De-jia, secretary-general of the Chinese Taipei Soccer Association, who disagreed with Ma and urged the government to show more support for "the beautiful game." Lin said his federation receives only NT$6.7 million in funding from the government, which is not even enough to pay for airfares for national teams to play abroad in international competitions.

"The fact is, our government does not pay enough attention to this sport," Lin said.

For Taiwan to establish itself as a soccer power to be reckoned with rather than just cheering from the sidelines during the World Cup, it needs to build up a soccer culture and develop players in all age groups.

"This takes time, patience and hard work," Lin noted.

By Chris Wang CNA Staff Reporter ENDITEM/J

Monday, June 28, 2010

Taiwan to meet China in U18 Asian basketball semifinals

Taipei, June 28 (CNA) Taiwan's under-18 women's national basketball team finished third in the preliminary round of the 2010 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia U-18 Championship for Women in Thailand and is scheduled to meet China later Monday in the semifinals.

Opening the tournament with a three-game winning streak, Taiwan lost to China, 55-106, and to Japan, 62-67, in the last two games. The Taiwan team finished with three wins and two losses in the six-team single round-robin preliminary round, behind defending champions Japan (5-0) and China (4-1) . South Korea squeezed into the final four with two wins and three losses.

Taiwan is scheduled to meet China 8 p.m. Monday, Taiwan time, while Japan will take on South Korea in the other semifinal game.

The biennial tournament, which is being held in Surat Thani, Thailand, from June 23-30, serves as a qualifying event for the FIBA World U19 Championship for Women to be held in Chile next year. The top three teams in the tournament will represent Asia in Chile.

The tourney is divided into two six-team levels -- the elite Level I and the qualifying Level II. The teams will play all the other teams in their group, with the top four in Level I qualifying for the semifinals, while winners in Level II will play the bottom two in Level I for a chance to enter the Level I competition in the future.

Malaysia (1-4) and Kazakhstan (0-5) failed to advance to the semifinal round in the Level I. Host Thailand (5-0) and India (4-1) emerged as the top two teams in the Level II.

The competition had been dominated by China and South Korea before Japan upset China to capture the gold medal for the first time in 2008. Taiwan has won silver and bronze in the competition, but never gold. China has won 11 U18 Asian titles, while South Korea has won seven. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thousands demand referendum on trade pact with China

Taipei, June 26 (CNA) Thousands of protesters rallied in downtown Taipei in heavy rain Saturday to voice their opposition to a trade pact between Taiwan and China and demand a referendum on the agreement before it takes effect.

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) heavyweights and the demonstrators contended that the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), which is scheduled to be signed in Chongqing, China June 29, was negotiated without transparency and will put local small- and medium-sized businesses at risk.

"A referendum will be the last line of defense for Taiwan's democracy, " said DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen.

Taiwan's government has argued that the reduced tariffs, relaxed trade regulations and liberalized market access under the ECFA will boost Taiwan's economy and to prevent it from being marginalized as East Asia's economy becomes more integrated.

The DPP believes, however, that Taiwan, which currently sends 42 percent of its exports to China and places about 66 percent of its foreign direct investment there, will become even more dependent on China's economy after the ECFA is signed, said Julian Kuo, convener of the DPP's ECFA task force.

The ECFA negotiations also lacked transparency because they were not monitored by the Legislature or approved by the people, Kuo said.

"That's why a referendum is needed to gain the people's mandate on such an important issue that would affect the well-being of millions of people and thousands of private businesses," Kuo said.

Though items on the "early harvest" list, which was announced Thursday, will receive immediate tariff reductions, a majority of the beneficiaries will be large businesses rather than SMEs, said former Vice President Annette Lu, who also expressed concerns about an influx of cheap Chinese products.

Tsai said Taiwan was in danger of losing its "community-based businesses" after the cross-Strait agreement goes into effect because Taiwan will be integrated into China's economy as a part of its supply chain, she said.

"Eventually Taiwan's economy will be a part of China's economy, " she said. "We're here to protect Taiwan's independent rights to make our own decision and speak for disadvantaged groups." The rally was comprised of two groups of protesters that arrived from separate starting times before gathering at the plaza in front of the Presidential Office.

Heavy rain began falling just past 5 p.m. before the two groups arrived, which may have affected turnout. The number of demonstrators appeared to be well below 100,000, the number the DPP said it would mobilize for the protest.

Former President Lee Teng-hui also attended the rally and spoke against the agreement, saying that the ECFA is not a good policy that benefits Taiwan's people. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls 

Taiwanese slugger Chen Yung-chi joins Pittsburgh Pirates

Taipei, June 26 (CNA) Taiwanese baseball player Chen Yung-chi has signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates of the U.S. Major Leagues and been assigned to its Double-A affiliate Altoona Curve, Chen's agent Octagon Asia said Saturday.

The 26-year-old slugger, who played in the Oakland Athletics minor league system from 2008-2010, was released by the A's Double-A affiliate Midland RockHounds earlier this month.

Chen was signed by the Seattle Mariners in 2004 and played in its minor league organization until 2008.

Chen, who plays mostly second and third base, is known for his speed and power, but what was once a promising career has been plagued by shoulder and knee injuries since 2007. He has never been called up to the Major Leagues.

He last played for Taiwan's national baseball team in 2006, appearing in the Intercontinental Cup, the World Baseball Classic and the Doha Asian Games that year.

Chen also had the best year of his six-year minor league career in 2006, when he hit .324 with eight home runs in 110 games with the San Antonio Missions, the Mariners' Double-A affiliate. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Friday, June 25, 2010

MECO celebrates 112th anniversary of Philippines' founding

Taipei, June 25 (CNA) The Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei celebrated the 112th anniversary of the founding of the Philippines Friday in a cocktail reception with diplomats from the Philippines and Taiwan calling for deeper and closer relationships under the new Philippine administration.

Benigno Simeon C. Aquino will be sworn in as Philippine president on June 30.

Taiwan "is our sixth-largest trading partner and our fifth-largest source of foreign direct investments. It ranks fifth in tourist arrivals and is host to almost 90,000 Filipino workers, of which 65 percent work in the high-tech manufacturing industry, " said Antonio Basilio, managing director of the MECO, the Philippine authority in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

Basilio told around 300 guests, including Taiwan diplomats, businesspeople and foreign representatives in Taiwan, that 21 memorandums of understanding (MOUs) on a wide range of areas have been signed by both sides in the last five years -- evidence of a strong friendship.

Taiwan is keen to forge a closer partnership with its closest neighbor to the south because the countries "share the same democratic values" and the economies of Taiwan and the Philippines complement each other well, said Shen Ssu-tsun, deputy minister of Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Basilio and Shen both said that warming cross-Taiwan Strait relations have had a positive impact on peace and stability in the region and created new dynamics that favor economic growth and integration in the region.

"This has also opened new pathways of friendship and cooperation between Taiwan and the Philippines," Basilio said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

ECFA to be signed amid optimism, concerns

Taipei, June 25 (CNA) Taiwan and China finalized details of a key trade pact Thursday to cut export tariffs and allow more market access to each other, but Taiwan's opposition is planning a massive rally Saturday to protest the deal.

According to President Ma Ying-jeou, the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) -- expected to be signed in the Chinese city of Chongqing June 29 -- will prevent Taiwan's economy from being marginalized in the process of East Asian economic integration and will help reduce Taiwan's jobless rate.

The Chung-hua Institution for Economic Research has said the ECFA could create more than 260,000 jobs in Taiwan and increase the gross domestic product by around 1.7 percent per year.

However, opposers of the deal, led by the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) , fear that the ECFA will make Taiwan, which exports more than 40 percent of its products to China, even more dependent on the other side of the Taiwan Strait and increase the unemployment rate when an influx of Chinese products and services jeopardizes local industries.

The DPP and the Taiwan Solidarity Union, a minor opposition party led by former President Lee Teng-hui which will organize Saturday's rally, will again demand a referendum on whether the deal should go ahead. Similar demands have already been rejected by the government.

The DPP said it was hoping to mobilize 100,000 supporters to take part in the protest.

The ECFA will be reviewed by the Legislative Yuan in an extra session in July. While the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) has said the legislature can only decide whether it will ratify the pact or not, opposition legislators have insisted on an article-by-article review.

Another concern is whether China will stop interfering with Taiwan's effort to seek free trade agreements (FTAs) with other countries, especially its major trading partners such as the United States, the European Union and Japan, once the ECFA is signed.

Zheng Lizhong, vice president of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, did not give a direct answer Thursday when asked about the issue, saying only that "China will properly address the issue to help create an environment in which Taiwan can tackle opportunities and challenges arising from growing cross-strait economic integration." The agreement has been welcomed by various countries, including the United States and the European Union.

Meanwhile, a Presidential Office spokesman said the government realizes that the ECFA does not solve all the country's problems because local businesses will have to upgrade themselves after the pact kicks in to increase their global competitiveness. President Ma Ying-jeou will deliver "in due time" Taiwan's global econom

Taiwan holds off South Korea in U18 Asian basketball tournament

Taipei, June 25 (CNA) Taiwan's under-18 women's national basketball team held off a furious rally by South Korea to win its third consecutive game at the International Basketball Federation (FIFA) Asia U18 Championship for Women in Thailand Friday.

"I'm proud of the way the girls kept their composure," head coach Chen Mei-li said after Taiwan was forced to regroup in the final minute for an 84-82 victory after blowing a 20-point lead.

By edging the South Koreans, Taiwan virtually assured itself a berth in the final four of the tournament, which serves as a qualifying event for the FIBA World U19 Championship for Women to be held in Chile next year.

It will likely be joined by China, Japan and South Korea, because the other countries in the six-team preliminary round group, Malaysia and Kazakhstan, remain winless. Taiwan will play China Saturday and Japan Sunday in the last two games of the preliminary round. The top three teams in the tournament will represent Asia in Chile.

Taiwan maintained a lead throughout much of the game and had a 70-54 advantage after three quarters.

But the Koreans mounted a 12-3 run in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter to pull close and actually grabbed a lead with 2: 45 left, behind three three-pointers from Cha Hongjin and nine points from Lee Seungah.

Chang Chi-fang paced Taiwan with a team-high 23 points while Lin Yu-ting had 19 points and Chang Yi-lin added 16.

The biennial competition had been dominated by China and South Korea, winners of 11 and seven U18 Asian titles, respectively, before Japan upset China to capture the gold medal for the first time in 2008. Taiwan has won silver and bronze three times each.

Twelve teams are participating in the biennial tournament, which runs June 23-30 in Surat Thani, Thailand. They are divided into two six-team levels -- the elite Level I and the qualifying Level II.

Teams play all other teams in their group, with the top four in Level I qualifying for the semifinals, while the top two Level II teams will play the bottom two Level I teams for a chance to enter Level I competition in the future. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Taiwan seeking participation in international organizations: official

Taipei, June 24 (CNA) Taiwan has been seeking more meaningful participation in international organizations, targeting observer status in the annual assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in September, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official (MOFA) said Thursday.

"The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooeration forum (APEC) also serves as a good platform to engage in regional and trans-Pacific affairs and launch initiatives for Taiwan, so we should take advantage of it, " said Lily Hsu, deputy director-general of the MOFA's Department of International Organization, in a press briefing.

The flexible diplomacy and the diplomatic truce President Ma Ying-jeou advocates have helped Taiwan gain international space, evidenced by its landmark participation as an observer in the World Health Assembly (WHA) in 2009 and 2010, she said, adding that the eased tension across the Taiwan Strait has also reduced other countries' concerns about the cross-strait situation.

Taiwan is an official member of 21 international organizations and an observer in 30 others, a far cry from the situation in the early 1970s, when Taiwan was able to participate in fewer than 10 international organizations after it was expelled from the United Nations in 1971, Hsu said.

While the eased tension does not mean Taiwan can participate in any organization in which it wants to, the rapprochement atmosphere has resulted in more comfortable interaction between Taiwan and China under APEC -- a forum of 21 Pacific Rim member economies that collaborate on regional trade liberalization -- she said.

Since the WHA breakthrough, Hsu said, the government has targeted participation in the ICAO and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as its next goals and has received positive responses.

The European Parliament, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as 17 U.S. State Congresses, have all passed resolutions in the past few months in support of Taiwan's participation in the ICAO assembly that will take place in Montreal, Canada, while Taiwan's diplomatic allies Nicaragua, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Panama have all publicly voiced their support, Hsu said.

She declined to elaborate in detail about Taiwan's efforts to secure the ICAO observer status.

Taiwan has been also working on the mission in the APEC Economic Leadership Meeting that will take place in Japan's Yokohama in November, Hsu said. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Taiwan 2-0 in basketball tourney

Taipei, June 24 (CNA) Taiwan's under-18 women's national basketball team routed Malaysia 71-45 Thursday in Thailand to go 2-0 in the International Basketball Federation Asia U18 Championship for Women (FIBA).

Taiwan beat Kazakhstan 81-68 the previous day in its opening game of the biennial tournament that runs June 23-30 and serves as the qualifying event for the FIBA World U19 Championship for Women to be held in Chile next year.

The 12 participating teams are divided into two levels -- the elite Level I and the qualifying Level II. Each team will play all the other teams in their level in the single round-robin preliminary round. The four best-placed teams of Level I will then go through to the semifinals, while the top two Level II teams will play the bottom two Level I teams for a chance to enter the Level I competition.

Taiwan, led by Liu Jung-hsing's 16 points and Liu Yu-ting's 14 points and 12 rebounds in Thursday's win, is scheduled to meet powerful South Korea Friday in Level I, which consists of Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, China, Malaysia and Kazakhstan.

The competition has been dominated by China and South Korea, which had won the Asian title 11 and seven times, respectively before Japan upset China and took the gold medal for the first time in 2008. Taiwan has won silver and bronze three times each.

The defending champion, Japan, edged out China 73-72 again in its opening game Wednesday.

The top three teams in the tournament will represent Asia in Chile. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Taiwan needs to make itself 'indispensable': U.S. scholars

Taipei, June 22 (CNA) It's impossible to untangle the United States' China policy from its Taiwan policy, but in the post-Cold War international arena, Taiwan must make itself "indispensable, " visiting U.S. scholars said in Taipei Tuesday.

"In my judgment, the bilateral relations between the United States and Taiwan are one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world between two governments... and it's difficult to think about China and the U.S.'s relationship with China without thinking about our relationship with Taiwan, " said Scott Lilly, a senior research fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Washington-based think tank founded in 2003.

Lilly was among a group of scholars from the center who attended a forum to discuss the U.S. President Barack Obama administration's foreign policies and priorities, organized by the American Cultural Center under the American Institute in Taiwan, the institution representing U.S. interests in Taiwan.

Speaking on relations between the U.S., China and Taiwan, Lilly said that the U.S. and Taiwan both "have the front row seats" to watch the drama of a rising China unfold and observe whether China will play a responsible and constructive role in the international community or refuse to change with the times.

Lilly, who served for 31 years in the U.S. Congress, said that both sides of the Taiwan Strait should avoid provocation, but that Taiwan should not show weakness when dealing with China. The military balance across the Taiwan Strait should not move significantly in either direction, he said, which means Taiwan should not seek and the U.S. should not provide weapons that go beyond preserving the balance.

"I think Taiwan presents a serious test to China -- is China about peaceful development and improving the lives of its own people? Or does it have a regional and global ambition which would trample 'other countries' along the way?" Lilly said.

Michael Werz, a research fellow at CAP, said that while West Berlin and Taiwan were two of the most important spots in the 1960s and 1970s, the importance of geographic location has been decreasing after the Cold War era.

Nowadays small powers can make a huge impact as elements such as "soft power" and participation in new organizations have become important, he said.

National interests aren't as tied to geographic locations and military power as they used to be, he said, adding that they need to be redefined.

Taiwan should make itself an indispensable part of the world by developing into an information technology (IT) hub or a research and development hub for products made in China, Werz said.

"You have to take care of your own business," he said.

While Taiwan has been a strong U.S. ally, it does not affect the overall China policy of the U.S. government, said Lawrence Korb, another CAP senior fellow.

Citing China's cooperation in voting for United Nations sanctions against Iran, Korb said that "the fact that they did it shows that our policy toward Taiwan does not undermine our relations with the Chinese." (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Monday, June 21, 2010

'Parliamentary diplomacy' offers Taiwan alternative path: speaker

Taipei, June 21 (CNA) "Parliament diplomacy" can help Taiwan pave an alternative path in carving out its role in the international arena and deserves more credit, attention and resources, Taiwan's legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng said Monday.

Speaking to dozens of future diplomats in a training class, Wang said this type of diplomacy will help Taiwan develop its "smart power" to gain mutual benefit for Taiwan and other countries.

He defined parliamentary diplomacy as the speaker or deputy speaker of the parliament visiting and receiving foreign parliamentarians, attending international meetings and organizations or establishing "Friends of Taiwan" groups to increase Taiwan's international exposure and visibility.

"The Legislative Yuan is the official branch of Taiwan's government, but at the same time it also plays a role as a democratic body in representing the people," Wang said.

"That is why the parliament is not that 'sensitive' an institution in the arena of diplomacy, where China has been blocking Taiwan's 'traditional diplomacy' for years." Taiwan is able to take advantage of parliamentary diplomacy as an unconventional path in developing relations with foreign countries, especially those that do not establish official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, said Wang, 69.

The Legislative Yuan has been very active in developing relationships with foreign parliaments, especially in the U.S., Japan and Europe, he said.

During the current legislature that began in February 2008, the Legislature has received 34 presidential or congressional delegations, 764 foreign delegations and 13,958 foreign parliamentarians.

Wang told his audience that his friendship with former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso dates back 30 years and the relationship between Taiwanese and Japanese parliamentarians has always been strong.

That relationship, he said, explains why Taiwan was able to maintain solid relations with Japan after a Taiwanese fishing vessel sank in Japanese-controlled Tiaoyutai waters following a collision with a Japanese ship, sparking diplomatic tensions between the two countries in June 2008.

Similarly solid relations between Taiwan and the European Parliament, Wang suggested, prevented the European body from condemning Taiwan after the government executed four death row inmates in April, the first executions in Taiwan in almost five years.

The body's aggressive approach in participating in international organizations, including the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) , Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF) and Parliament of the Americas (COPA) , drew China's intervention despite the diplomatic truce which Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has been advocating, Wang said.

Parliamentary diplomacy deserves more attention and resources because parliaments in all countries have an impact on their countries foreign policies, he contended. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

MLB coach recalls China's landmark win over Taiwan in Beijing Olympics

Taipei, June 15 (CNA) China's landmark win over Taiwan in the group stage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics baseball competition was a game in which the best team beat the best talent, but Taiwan's baseball prowess cannot be denied, a former manager of the Chinese national baseball team said Tuesday in Taipei.

Jim Lefebvre, who led China to a thrilling 12-inning 8-7 win in Beijing -- its first ever victory over Taiwan in major international baseball competition -- said the game displayed the plain beauty of baseball because "that day the best talent did not win. That day the best team won." Taiwan's group stage loss to China did not affect the final placing as Taiwan ranked fifth out of eight teams and China finished in last place. However, the upset loss was still described by Taiwan's fans as "heartbreaking, " "unbearable" and "a national disgrace." "But it was just our day... I have no idea how we won, " Lefebvre said, drawing laughter from reporters.

Lefebvre, 68, recalled that Taiwan seemed to think it had sealed the game after taking a 2-0 lead. But the game went into an extra innings and China scored five runs in the bottom the 12th inning after Taiwan scored four times in the top of the same inning.

According to Lefebvre, Taiwan let the game slip away because of some tactical and positioning mistakes late in the game.

Taiwan's talent has always been impressive, but good talent doesn't always guarantee a win, he said. He advised Taiwanese baseball players to learn "how to play the game hard and play it right." South Korea, the eventual gold medal winner in Beijing, showed dedication and commitment every time its players stepped into a ballpark and its "one-way training system" was consistent at every level, he said.

Given Taiwan's passion for the game and its rich tradition in the sport, it is well-positioned to be successful internationally, he said. Local coaches have been doing exceptionally well in the Little League level by teaching fundamentals, he noted.

Lefebvre, who managed three Major League Baseball clubs from 1989-1999 and the Chinese national team from 2003-2008, held a six-day clinic in which he and another MLB coach Rick Dell trained 60 coaches from local high schools and senior-level teams.

The clinic is a part of Taiwan's four-year Baseball Revival Program, which was set up after Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League was crippled by a major game-fixing scandal involved dozens of active and former players and coaches. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

GPT strives to take its place in Taiwan as a true green party

Pan Han-sheng has become used to explaining over and over again that his Green Party Taiwan (GPT) is a "real political party, " not just an environmental protection group.

When it not being mistaken for an environmental group, the GPT is erroneously associated with the pan-green affiliates -- the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU).

This situation has long been a problem for the GPT, which is seeking to establish its own identity and character, said Pan, one of the conveners of the GPT.

But recently, the party, which was founded in 1996, had an opportunity to polish its image and highlight its agenda.

Its success in hosting the second congress of Asia-Pacific Green Network in May gave it a shot in the arm and a chance to appear in the global spotlight.

The party is now pumped up and ready to take on political competition, Pan indicated.

"While the political environment in Taiwan does not favor minor political parties, the GPT has reaffirmed its goal of making more of an impact through elections and prove that it's more than just another environmental group," said Pan.

Pan, 40, will lead the way, competing in the year-end elections for Taipei City councillors, making his second bid in the Songshan-Xinyi district after a failed attempt in 1996.

The GPT's goals are inspired by the successes of green parties in various other countries, he said.

Although the GPT is yet to obtain more than 1 percent of the votes in any local or national election, Pan said, it is optimistic that one day it will be like the New Zealand Green Party, which has 9 seats in the 122-member House of Representatives, the Australia Greens, which has five seats in the 76-member Senate, or the Luxembourg Greens, which most recently won 15 percent of the vote.

Pan believes that the party will be able to ride the rising wave of environmental awareness and take advantage of the growth of Taiwan's civil society, leaving behind the bitter taste of the 1999-2005 period, when it was practically inactive due to a lack of funding.

In Taiwan, candidates in local council and legislative elections are required by law to each pay a deposit of NT$200,000 (US$6,195) to the Central Election Commission (CEC). The deposit is not returned if the candidate fails to obtain 10 percent of the quotient obtained by dividing the number of votes by the size of the district.

In addition, political parties that fail to garner more than 5 percent of the vote in the most recent legislative election do not qualify for the campaign subsidy of NT$50 per ballot.

In 2008, the GPT put forward 14 candidates in the legislative election, a move that brought the party to the brink of bankruptcy because it spent millions on the deposits and its campaign and did not perform well in the polls, Pan said.

In the 2008 legislative election, the GPT gained 60,000 party votes, which means it would have been eligible to receive a subsidy of about NT$3 million -- a sum that is more than its annual budget -- if the vote threshold was scrapped, Pan said.

"However, none of the other political party are interested in amending those laws," he lamented.

The issue of having to worry about money is relatively new to Pan, who was a researcher and fund manager at a security firm before he became deeply involved in the GPT.

Like most people in this type of job, he said, he would work under high pressure for several years, then quit and go traveling and buy luxuries.

"I never had problems finding a new job, " he said.

In 2006, fresh from a vacation in Japan, he was recruited by the GPT to run for city councilor, but his bid failed.

That same year, two personal experiences -- the death of mother and the birth of his daughter -- made him rethink his priorities, he said.

"All of a sudden making money was not that important to me anymore -- I had a brand new perspective on life, " Pan said.

It was then that he made the decision to work full time for the GPT.

These days Pan can be seen at protests and public hearings related to environmental issues. He has also appeared on a television talk show advocating the abolition of the death penalty, one of the main policies of the GPT.

"Once you've chosen to take the path of politics, you have to do it the 'Taiwanese way, ' which means wearing a vest with your name on it, meeting and talking to people and shaking every hand. And you have to get as much exposure as possible, " he said.

However, convincing people to vote for the GPT is not an easy task, he said.

Most people support the party's position on the environment, human rights and social justice, but at election time they usually vote for the major political parties, Pan said.

"When the independence-unification discussions heat up, swing voters tend to shy away from the voting booths and that hurts the GPT because most of our supporters are swing voters," he said.

However, there are some glimmers of hope, he indicated.

According to a public opinion poll, he said, the party's support rate now exceeds 2 percent and if it can expand its support base from the 20-25 age group to the 35-45 group, it could win a few seats in the year-end elections and go on from there.

He is of the view that Taiwan needs a party like the GPT to bring some balance to the dialogue on major issues.

"It would be a shame if all the discussions on the independence-unification issue should take place along party lines, " he said. "Those who care about public policies and social issues should be able to speak out on behalf of the people." For the GPT, party identity, funding and election laws remain big problems, But, Pan said, the party is determined to continue on its chosen path until it can claim its place as the only genuinely green party in the country.

By Chris Wang CNA staff writer

enditem /pc

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Former president speaks out against ECFA

Taipei, June 12 (CNA) Former President Lee Teng-hui spoke out Saturday against a proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) Taiwan hopes to sign with China this month, saying that the pact should be approved through a referendum.

According to Lee, the ECFA is a one-China market framework agreement and a political economic arrangement that will jeopardize Taiwan's sovereignty, Lee said in a forum organized by Taiwan Advocates, a pro-independence think tank founded by Lee himself in 2001.

The agreement, which aims to reduce tariffs and relax cross-Taiwan Strait trade regulations, is a precursor for the eventual goal of free flow of personnel, investment, goods, technology and services across the strait and could result in a "second wave of local industries exodus, " Lee claimed.

As a World Trade Organization (WTO) member, Taiwan has the right to directly negotiate a free trade agreement (FTA) with China instead of "bypassing the WTO mechanism for an ECFA with China, " Lee said.

The danger of signing the ECFA, according to Lee, lies in the implication that Taiwan is in the same position as Hong Kong and Macau as special administrative regions of China, both of which have signed similar trade pacts with China.

Citing the example of Hong Kong, which signed a Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement with China in 2003, Lee said Hong Kong's economy "plummeted" after that and that he expects Taiwan to take an even harder hit because, unlike Hong Kong, most Taiwanese businesses are in the manufacturing sector.

According to Lee, the decision of the Referendum Screening Committee to reject a referendum initiative on the ECFA "was a dereliction of duty and deviated from the core value of direct democracy." The committee rejected an ECFA referendum proposal submitted by the tiny opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) June 3 on the grounds that it was not in conformity with the Referendum Act. The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said June 4 that it will launch a "10-year war of resistance" and continue pushing for a referendum. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cross-strait conflict could be larger than Mideast wars: scholars

Taipei, June 11 (CNA) If there is going to be a conflict between the United States and China, it would start with Taiwan, and the scale of the conflict would be larger than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. scholars said in Taipei on Friday.

"The rise of China will be one of the most important issues in 21st century U.S. foreign policy" and the Taiwan Strait is the core of potential conflict between the world's two superpowers, although the possibility is low, said Richard Bush, former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and director of the Brookings Institution's Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies.

Bush and Michael O'Hanlon, a researcher at Brookings Institution who specializes in national security and defense policy, were in Taipei launching "A War Like No Other -- The Truth About China's Challenge to America, " a book they co-authored in 2007 that is now being released in Chinese.

"As a defense analyst like many others in the United States who spent a lot of time studying Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, these problems -- as bad as they have been -- are modest in scale compared to what the cross-strait conflict can quickly become, " O'Hanlon said.

Most Americans and people on this side of the Pacific Ocean were not aware of the potential size of the conflict, he added.

The risk of Chinese invasion of Taiwan is small, O'Hanlon said, because modern technology makes it unlikely that big ships could cross the Taiwan Strait without being detected. China is more likely to use a blockade, complemented by missile strikes and a cyber-attack -- a move that is "less threatening but in a more acute sense, " he said.

China would be able to carry out offensives against merchant ships during the blockade, cease the operation if the U.S. reacts, and re-impose it later, he said.

Contrary to what some people think, O'Hanlon said, China would not be able to take Taiwan by force easily because Taiwan has a "robust survivable commanding control." The survivability of Taiwan's air force, including its ability to repair airfields quickly, would be crucial in the early days of an attack because it could make it very difficult for China to carry out a successful assault. Anti-submarine warfare is also important for Taiwan, he said.

Meanwhile, avoiding conflicts is equally important, Bush said, because "when you realize modern war, you treasure peace even more." Although the U.S. is bound by the Taiwan Relations Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1979, to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character and help Taiwan resist any force of coercion that would jeopardize its people, whether or not the U.S. would intervene in a cross-strait conflict has been much discussed.

Bush said that how the U.S. reacts would depend on who made the provocation, although he added that sometimes the definition of "provocation" is ambiguous.

Alexander Huang, a professor at Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, said that as the Chinese economy is rising rapidly, it would not be wise for China's next generation of leaders to ignite a conflict.

"How Taiwan shapes up its China policy is more important, " Huang said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Taiwan hopeful beef issue will not hinder resumption of TIFA talks

Taipei, June 10 (CNA) The government hopes the controversy over its partial ban on American beef imports will not hinder a potential resumption of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) negotiations with the United States before the end of the year, a foreign affairs official said Thursday.

"For Taiwan, the U.S. beef issue is closed, but apparently this is not the case for the U.S. Hopefully, it will not affect the TIFA negotiations," said Harry Tseng, director-general of the Department of North American Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt told a media roundtable in Taipei June 4 that the beef row is a "lingering issue" because U.S. senators and the U.S. government see Taiwan's market as still not totally open to U.S. beef due to "non-scientific" reasoning.

Taiwan's legislature passed an amendment in January to the Act Governing Food Safety that bans imports of various beef products from countries with documented cases of mad cow disease in the past decade. The amendment effectively bars U.S. ground beef, beef offal and other beef parts such as skulls and eyes from Taiwan's market, in contravention of a bilateral beef trade protocol signed by the two countries last October.

Tseng said that the banned items -- ground beef, beef offal and other parts -- only account for a few percent of Taiwan's U.S. beef imports and that U.S. beef exporters have made profits from the Taiwanese market since the Taiwan-U.S. beef protocol went into effect.

"Hopefully, that will ease some of the opposition (to the partial ban), " he said.

Tseng also expressed hope that the TIFA talks will resume before the end of the year -- as Burghardt mentioned in the media roundtable -- because "it's not worthwhile for both the U.S. and Taiwan to let other economic and trade issues be kidnapped by the beef dispute" as the trade volume of U.S. beef is only a tiny part of the total two-way trade volume.

On the TIFA talks, Burghardt said Taiwan and the U.S. have agreed that the last round of talks under the TIFA -- a deputy ministerial meeting held in July 2007 -- was too long ago and that new talks should take place before the end of the year.

Taiwan and the U.S. both understand the importance of the TIFA negotiations because they cover a wide range of topics related to bilateral economic relations, Tseng said, adding that the talks would provide a much-needed platform for both sides to resolve economic and trade problems. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

UK-Taiwan relations headed in right direction: British diplomat

Taipei, June 10 (CNA) Relations between Taiwan and the United Kingdom in the areas of trade, tourism and cultural exchanges have been going well, but Taiwan's reversion to death row executions is disappointing, the top British diplomat in Taipei indicated Wednesday.

Nonetheless, said David Campbell, Director of the British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO) in Taipei, he is generally optimistic about the direction of the bilateral relations.

"Taiwan's decision last year to make two international human rights covenants part of its domestic law was widely welcomed," said Campbell in a speech at the celebration of Britain's Queen Elizabeth's birthday.

"It was all the more disappointing, therefore, to see in April the abrupt end to Taiwna's de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty," he said.

Campbell cited Taiwan's silver medal win for its orchids at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show and the Queen's visit to the Taiwan stand there last month as indicators of the scope of U.K.-Taiwan ties and the potential for Taiwan-made products to succeed in the U.K. market.

Although 2009 was a bad year for the global economy, Campbell said, U.K. exports to Taiwan were up 30 percent in the first quarter of 2010 over the same period last year.

According to Campbell, the number of Taiwanese visitors to the U.K. increased more than one third from previous years, after Taiwan was granted a visa-free privilege in March last year.

Campbell also said he was pleased to see strong educational links between the two countries. At any given time, there are at least 15,000 Taiwanese students studying in the U.K., which is the second most popular destination for overseas study among Taiwan students. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Online game helps Taiwan locate overseas football talent

Taipei, June 9 (CNA) Playing online games isn't necessarily a waste of time. Without it, Taiwan's Chinese Taipei Football Association (CTFA) wouldn't have found Xavier Chen, a Taiwanese-Belgian professional footballer who the association hopes will play for Taiwan internationally.

Ginola Chen, CTFA public relations director, found the name "Xavier Chen" when he was playing an online FIFA football game last October and thought it was probably a "patch" or a role created by gamers.

But it only took a Google search for him to realize he was wrong. The real-life Xavier Chen is a 26-year-old right back in KV Mechelen, a Belgian First Division team in Antwerp Province, who had been a captain on the Belgian under-19 national team.

After weeks of e-mail correspondence with the footballer, Ginola Chen knew the recruiting opportunity was too good to miss for Taiwan, currently ranked 167th in the FIFA world rankings. He flew to Brussels, Belgium and spent a week trying to persuade the Taiwanese-Belgian, who has a Taiwanese father and a French mother, to play for Taiwan.

"That's the beauty of the Internet -- a modern way to find players, isn't it? " Xavier Chen said in Taipei Tuesday when he was greeted at the Taipei Stadium by dozens of television cameras and reporters.

In his first trip to Taiwan in 15 years, Xavier Chen plans to meet his grandfather, a former Taiwan diplomat, and to get to know Taiwan better, Ginola Chen said. "We're not trying to force him into making any decision, " he added.

Xavier Chen said that while his family still keeps some Taiwanese traditions -- mostly foods, especially the mapo tofu his mother cooks -- his knowledge of Taiwan and Mandarin has been limited because his father insisted on full integration into Belgian culture.

He said that he hasn't made any decision on joining the Taiwanese national team, but Taiwan "is my father's country -- and mine as well -- which has a special part in my heart. I think my family will be glad if I choose to play for Taiwan, " he said.

China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, also made a run to recruit Chen in April, three months after CTFA contacted him. Chen said he was open to meet with anyone to "check every opportunity" and that Taiwan was definitely one of the options.

A report on a Chinese media Web site in April, however, said that because Beijing does not accept dual citizenship, Chen would have to relinquish his Belgian citizenship to represent China. Taiwan allows dual citizenship.

"It's a dream for every player to play for a national team, " he said, adding that at 26, the window of opportunity for him to earn a place on the Belgian national team is closing fast and that was why he wanted to keep his options open.

For Chen to play on the Taiwan squad, the CTFA will have to negotiate with Chen's club in Belgium. Insurance and travel between Europe and Taiwan during the European football season will have to be taken into consideration, Ginola Chen said.

Xavier Chen, who reportedly earns 700,000 euros (NT$27 million) annually with Mechelen, is unlikely to play regularly in Taiwan, where football is a minor sport and the domestic league is weak.

"It's a shame because football is popular in the world. I don't know why it couldn't be popular in Taiwan, " Xavier Chen said.

If he were to agree to play for Taiwan, it is likely his first games would be Asian Cup qualifiers next year.

Chen is scheduled to fly back to Belgium Saturday, which means he will watch the opening game of the South Africa World Cup Friday in Taipei. The University of Brussels law school graduate said his favorite player is French winger Franck Ribery and hopes France does well in South Africa.

This is not the first foreign-born Taiwanese player the CTFA has tried to recruit. The association has also been in contact with Taiwanese-Spanish player Victor Chou, an 18-year-old defender who plays for the youth team of UD Salamanca. To date, however, a foreign-born player has never represented Taiwan on the national team. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Huckabee addresses Taiwan, U.S. issues in fundraiser

Taipei, June 9 (CNA) Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said U.S. policy on Taiwan-China relations remains unchanged under the Obama administration and called for a new brand of politics in the U.S., at a fundraiser in Taipei Tuesday night.

The former governor, who ran unsuccessfully for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, delivered a speech to around 350 guests, including local politicians, businessmen and students from seven universities, at an event called "An Evening with Governor Mike Huckabee." Asked about America's cross-Taiwan Strait policy in a question and answer session, Huckabee refrained from elaboration or criticism, saying that domestic issues and Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea and Gaza are at the top of the current administration's agenda.

The Obama administration's position in the cross-Strait issue "hasn't been radically different from past administrations, " he observed.

Huckabee suggested, however, that there was a difference of mentality and thinking between Americans and people across the Taiwan Strait.

While Americans love to put everything on the table and work toward a "timetable" and "a conclusion right now" to solve problems, he said, Taiwanese and Chinese seem to be more patient by first asking "do we have peace? " and "do we have the capacity to live without threats and war?" Huckabee reiterated his support for Taiwan, because it shares the same values with the U.S. and has always been a strong U.S. ally.

During his last visit in June 2006 when he was governor of Arkansas, a position he held from 1996-2007, and chairman of the National Governors Association, Huckabee met then-President Chen Shui-bian.

The association passed a resolution in 2003 supporting Taiwan's bid to become an observer in the World Health Assembly, and in 2005, Huckabee's state of Arkansas passed a resolution recommending the signing of a Taiwan-U.S. free trade agreement.

According to Jack Hu, managing director of the visit's organizer the London International Group, Huckabee decided to extend his stay in Taiwan to four days and could meet President Ma Ying-jeou and officials from the National Security Council.

Huckabee met with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng and several legislators from the ruling party Kuomintang Monday night.

Currently hosting a weekly a weekend political talk show on Fox News Channel, Huckabee quipped that he's recognized by people more often now than on the campaign trail in 2008 because Americans "pay more attention to who's on the TV than who's running the country." He did not say whether he will run again for the presidency in 2012 and insisted that his relocation to Florida had nothing to do with politics, but he expressed his belief that the Republicans will enjoy a "strong year." Huckabee addressed a wide range of topics in his speech, from education and health care to the economy, and advocated "vertical politics, " saying that U.S. politics should not be an issue of "left or right but up or down." "Barack Obama won in 2008 because he was a upward politician, " he said.

Meanwhile, he expressed concerns over Obama's "inexperience and lack of preparation" in governance, citing the latest poll on Obama's handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The poll found that dissatisfaction with Obama is 9 percent higher than for former U.S. President George Bush over his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which was widely seen as a blow that weakened Bush's presidency. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Monday, June 07, 2010

Huckabee reaffirms support for Taiwan

Taipei, June 7 (CNA) Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, reiterated his support for Taiwan upon arrival Monday for a three-day visit during which he will meet government officials and local political leaders.

He wasted no time to emphasize his long-term support for Taiwan, saying: "I love Taiwan. I feel that it is one of the most important partners the United States has and one of our greatest allies."

Huckabee met then-President Chen Shui-bian during his last visit in June 2006, when he was governor of Arkansas and chairman of the National Governors Association. The association passed a resolution in 2003 supporting Taiwan's bid to become an observer in the World Health Assembly, and in 2005, Huckabee's state of Arkansas passed a resolution recommending the signing of a Taiwan-U.S. free trade agreement.

Responding to a reporter's question, he acknowledged there had been political changes both in the U.S. and Taiwan since his last visit, but said change is "one of the wonderful things about democracy."

"Sometimes I don't like the change. Obviously I would like to see a different president in my country. I thought it should have been me, but apparently the rest of the country doesn't think that way just yet, " he said.

"We accept change as what makes our system the amazing system that it is, and in the same way this is one of the reasons that I feel the U.S. has a very strong organic relationship with Taiwan because, like we elect our government, so do you. And you have the opportunity to get angry with them and express it. I like that and I think that's healthy and good, " he said.

Visiting Taiwan to promote his book "Do the Right Thing, " Huckabee will make an invitation-only appearance at the Taipei International Convention Center Tuesday, according to Jack Hu, managing director of London International Group, organizer of the visit.

The Tuesday event, called "An Evening with Governor Mike Huckabee, " will begin with remarks from Huckabee and later include a moderated question and answer session, Hu said.

In his bid for the Republican nomination for president, Huckabee won eight states and more than 4 million votes in the primaries before pulling out of the race in March 2008.

Asked whether he plans to run again in the 2012 presidential election, Huckabee said: "I don't know. If I were, I probably wouldn't announce it in Taipei."

Huckabee was elected as lieutenant governor of Arkansas in 1993 by special election and re-elected in 1994. He became governor in July 1996 when his predecessor resigned, making him one of the youngest governors in the country at the time. He served as governor from 1996 to 2007 and was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the five best governors in America.

Huckabee currently hosts a weekend political talk show, "Huckabee," on Fox News Channel. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Former U.S. governor Huckabee to visit Taiwan

Taipei, June 6 (CNA) Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, will visit Taiwan in a private trip next week, organizers announced Sunday.

The former governor is scheduled to arrive in Taipei Monday for the promotion of his book "Do the Right Thing" and will make an invitation-only appearance at the Taipei International Convention Center on June 8, according to Jack Hu, managing director of the visit's organizer London International Group.

Hu did not elaborate on details of Huckabee's visit, which will not be announced until Monday, but he said Huckabee may meet with local political heavyweights during his stay.

The June 8 event, called "An Evening with Governor Mike Huckabee," will begin with remarks from Huckabee and then be followed with a moderated question and answer session, Hu said.

Huckabee last visited Taiwan in June 2006 when he was still governor of Arkansas and chairman of the National Governors Association and met with former president Chen Shui-bian.

The association passed a resolution in 2003 supporting Taiwan's bid to become an observer in the World Health Assembly, and in 2005, Huckabee's state of Arkansas passed a resolution recommending the signing of a Taiwan-U.S. free trade agreement.

In his bid for the Republican nomination for President, Huckabee won eight states and more than 4 million votes in the primaries before pulling out of the race in March 2008.

Huckabee was elected as lieutenant governor of Arkansas in 1993 by special election and re-elected in 1994. He became governor in July 1996 when his predecessor resigned and was one of the youngest governors in the country at the time. He served as governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007 and has been recognized by Time Magazine as one of the five best governors in America.

Huckabee currently hosts a weekend political talk show, "Huckabee," on Fox News Channel. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Friday, June 04, 2010

U.S. backs Taiwan's WTO rights to seek trade agreements

Taipei, June 4 (CNA) A United States diplomat on Friday supported Taiwan's right to sign trade agreements with other WTO members, but said that an existing trade and investment framework agreement would be a better vehicle through which to improve U.S.-Taiwan ties.

American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond F. Burghardt said in Taipei Friday that the U.S. believes Taiwan's rights as a WTO member should be protected and should not be vulnerable to influence from China.

"The U.S. position has been as clear as anybody that all WTO members have the right and power to sign trade agreements with other WTO members. Period. No need for prior ECFA agreements, no need for permission from China, " said Burghardt at a media roundtable.

Taiwan is trying to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China, in part to pave the way for signing free trade agreements (FTAs) with other countries, including the U.S.

But a Chinese Foreign Ministry official recently seemed to undercut the government's argument when he said China would not agree to the idea, sparking controversy over the issue in Taiwan.

Though Burghardt said the U.S. supported the right of every WTO member to sign a trade agreement, he indicated that the U.S. intends to improve bilateral trade ties with Taiwan under the framework of an existing Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) rather than a full-fledged FTA.

There is not much enthusiasm in Washington for another FTA after the three previous FTAs with South Korea, Panama and Columbia have failed to pass the U.S. Congress, he said.

Both Taiwan and the U.S. have agreed that the last round of talks under the TIFA -- a deputy ministerial meeting which was held in July 2007 -- was too long ago, and "it would be nice to see that happen sometime before the end of the year," he said.

Meanwhile, he emphasized that the U.S. trade agreements are always "very complete" and different from the ones signed between Asian countries, which are usually "weak and partial." The diplomat reiterated that Taiwan is not ready to fully open its market (to foreign economies) subject to a full free trade agreement, nor did he think that agreement would clear Taiwan's Legislature.

If Taiwan is seeking to sign FTAs with other countries, Asian countries will be better choices because it will be asked for less of a market opening from those countries than the U.S., Burghardt suggested.

Burghardt also confirmed that three U.S. senators -- Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Mark Udall (D-Co.) -- will visit Taiwan on Saturday, the first visit by U.S. senators since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May 2008.

Burghardt said the visit will be "short and unofficial." (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls 

US beef issue 'lingers,' but won't hurt ties: AIT head

Taipei, June 4 (CNA) The controversy surrounding Taiwan's partial ban on beef imports from the U.S. is not resolved but won't affect the countries' strong trade relationship, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond F. Burghardt said Friday.

Burghardt told a media roundtable that the beef row was a "lingering issue" because U.S. senators and the U.S. government see Taiwan's market as still not totally open to U.S. beef due to "non-scientific" reasoning.

In January, Taiwan's legislature passed an amendment to the Act Governing Food Safety that banned imports of specific beef products from countries with documented cases of mad cow disease in the past decade. The amendment effectively barred U.S. ground beef, beef offal and other beef parts such as the skull, eyes and intestines from Taiwan's market, in contravention of a bilateral beef trade protocol signed by the two countries last October.

Burghardt said, however, that U.S. beef "is coming in and doing well (on Taiwan's market) and people are buying bone-in and boneless beef... It would be nice to see the market totally open."

Moreover, he said, the fact that Taiwan is the U.S.'s ninth-largest trading partner and sixth-largest market for agricultural products says a lot about the countries' bilateral trade relations. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Time not right for closer relations with Iran: MOFA

Taipei, June 3 (CNA) The time is not right for Taiwan and Iran to develop closer relations, despite a strong desire by both sides to do so, a Taiwan foreign ministry official said Thursday.

Taiwan and Iran both intend to boost their already strong trade relationship but "the time is not right" to take the bilateral relations to the next level, said Lin Jinn-jong, director-general of the Department of West Asian Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), at a press briefing.

As the international community has been contemplating sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear energy policies, "it's not appropriate at this moment to step up exchanges (with Iran) , " Lin said.

On May 21, the Associated Press reported that Taiwan had turned down a request by Iran to open a "diplomatic mission" in Taiwan. Taiwan's Foreign Minister Timothy C.T. Yang rebutted the report May 25, saying that his ministry has not received any request from Iran to open a trade office in Taiwan.

According to Lin, Iran is Taiwan's third largest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and the annual two-way trade volume is valued at a peak of US$5.6 billion.

"However, the real trade volume could exceed that figure because some deals were done via the Dubai Free Zone," Lin said.

The Taiwan External Trade Development Council established an office in Tehran in 1992.

According to Bureau of Foreign Trade statistics, the total trade volume between Taiwan and Iran, Taiwan's 25th-largest trading partner, was US$2.5 billion in 2009. Most of Taiwan's imports, valued at US$1.98 billion, were petroleum products.

(By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

MECO welcomes report of Taiwan-Philippines free trade talks

Taipei, June 3 (CNA) The Philippines' representative office in Taiwan said it welcomed the reported plans for Taiwan and the Philippines to hold talks on a free trade agreement (FTA).

However, Taiwan officials have been cautious in their responses to the report on the sensitive issue.

A Philippines newspaper, the Business Mirror, on Monday quoted Philippines Trade Secretary Jesli A. Lapus as saying that officials from Manila and Taipei will start talks on a "mini-FTA" on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Sapporo, Japan this week.

"This is of course a welcome development from MECO's perspective, if it is correct, but as the (trade) secretary said, it is still at an exploratory stage," said Antonio Basilio, resident representative and managing director of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei.

Meanwhile, Shih Yen-hsiang, who is leading the Taiwan delegation to the June 5-6 APEC Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Trade, declined to comment directly on the report prior to his departure, saying only that the APEC meeting focuses on multilateral trade discussions rather than bilateral talks.

According to the newspaper report, Lapus said he will seek a meeting with his Chinese counterpart to ask about the contents of a prospective economic agreement between China and Taiwan and to seek Beijing's opinion on whether a full-blown trade deal would conflict with its "one-China policy." He said that Taiwan and the Philippines are working on a mini-FTA under the so-called Subic-Clark-Kaoshiung Economic Corridor Agreement.

Taiwan is hoping that the conclusion of the cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) will help boost its competitiveness in the global market and help pave the way for FTAs with other countries, without China's interference.

Taiwan is reportedly hoping to sign FTAs with Singapore and the Philippines after the ECFA is completed.

However, China's foreign ministry said Wednesday that Beijing is opposed to Taiwan signing free trade agreements (FTAs) with any country. In response, President Ma Ying-jeou said that Taiwan "is entitled to sign any trade deals with other WTO (World Trade Organization) members and this right cannot be interfered with for any reason." Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) deputy spokesman James Chang said Thursday that the ministry "had not received information about Taiwan negotiating (trade deals) with any specific country or countries, but we believe that the easing of cross-strait tensions will help create an atmosphere in which Taiwan can secure FTAs with other countries." (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Dates set for Jones Cup basketball tournament

Taipei, June 3 (CNA) The R. William Jones Cup International Invitational Tournament, Taiwan's top international hoop event, will be held from July 13-21, a Taiwan basketball official said Thursday.

Seven men's teams and five women's teams will participate in the annual tournament in Taipei County's Sinjhuang Stadium, said Lee Yi-chung, deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Taipei Basketball Association (CTBA), Taiwan's top basketball governing body.

Host Taiwan will field its national teams and university all-star teams in both the men's and women's competitions, Lee said. Several of Taiwan's national players have injuries, however, and have said they will sit out in order to be in better shape to prepare for the Asian Games, which will be held in Guangzhou, China in November.

Among the men's participating teams are Japan's national team, Lebanon's national team, Iran's national second team, a club team from western Australia and the Philippines' national team.

Lee said he expected the Philippine team to be the top box office draw as usual because there are many overseas Filipino workers in Taiwan and because Filipinos are known for their passion for basketball.

"Moreover, this Philippine team was selected to compete for a berth in the Asian zone for the 2012 London Olympics. I think the team will be highly competitive, " Lee said.

In the women's competition, Japan, Kazakhstan and Lebanon will send their national teams to compete with the two home teams.

The Jones Cup started in 1977 as an invitational tourney with national teams, club teams and university teams mainly from the Asian region. It was named after Renato William Jones, one of the founders and former secretary-general of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). (Chris Wang) enditem/bc

International human rights groups appeal to Taiwan on death penalty

Taipei, June 3 (CNA) International human rights organizations repeated their appeals to the Taiwan government Thursday to restore an unofficial moratorium on executions to spare the lives of 40 death row inmates.

Amnesty International and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) issued separate statements to express their regret over a decision reached May 28 by the Justices of Constitutioal Court to reject a petition filed by the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) on behalf of the prisoners.

ADPAN urged Taiwan to halt further executions following the April 30 execution of four prisoners and to either consider alternatives to capital punishment or re-introduce an unofficial moratorium.

Amnesty International argued that Taiwan's application of the death penalty is unconstitutional and violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that was signed by President Ma Ying-jeou in May last year and incorporated into the domestic laws of Taiwan.

Provisions for legal representation, particularly in the final stages of trials, and opportunities to debate appropriate sentencing during trials are inadequate, the organization said in the statement. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

France denies military liaison office exists in Taipei

Taipei, June 1 (CNA) France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied the existence of a military liaison office in Taiwan in a press briefing Monday after Taiwanese media reported that the office has been closed over the handling of a warship sale dispute.

According to the Web site of the French Foreign Ministry, its spokesman denied the existence of a military liaison office under the French Institute in Taipei, which represents French interests in Taiwan in the absence of bilateral diplomatic ties.

"We do not have a military liaison office in Taipei. There are no changes foreseen in the French Institute in Taipei, " the French Foreign Ministry spokesman said in response to a reporter's question.

The Chinese-language Liberty Times newspaper reported Monday that the French government ordered that the military liaison office in Taiwan be closed down in July because Taiwan reneged on a pledge to settle a dispute over commissions paid on the sale of six Lafayette-class frigates in 1991 out of court.

The French Institute in Taipei told the Central News Agency Monday that it had no comment on the matter.

Taiwan's Navy brought the case to the International Court of Arbitration under the International Chamber of Commerce in 2001, and on May 3, the court ruled against French defense contractor Thales, which was Thomson-CSF, when the sale was made.

The court ordered Thales and the French government, which had a major stake in the contract, to pay a penalty of more than US$591 million to Taiwan for paying commissions on the US$2.8 billion sale to Taiwan's Navy, in violation of the deal's contract.

Asked about the French government's position, James Chang, a spokesman for Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) , said Taiwan was informed as early as last year by French authorities of the closure of the office because of budgetary and personnel considerations.

He did not deny the existence of such an office.

Foreign Minister Timothy Yang said Monday that it remains to be verified whether the French government will indeed close its military liaison office in Taiwan in July.

He described the Lafayette arbitration process as a business issue and said it would not have any adverse impact on bilateral relations between Taiwan and France. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Taiwanese pianist to commemorate Chopin in Taipei concert

Taipei, June 1 (CNA) World renowned Taiwanese pianist Chen Ruei-bin gave a mini-concert at a press conference Tuesday as a preview to a June 6 solo concert in Taipei to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Polish composer and pianist Frederic Chopin's birth.

The pianist, who comes from southern Taiwan and honed his musical skills in Austria and Germany, told CNA he is excited to play in front of local music lovers for the first time in three years in Taiwan's first full Chopin concert held at the National Concert Hall.

Chen, who was taught piano by his father from the age of 5 and went to Vienna, Austria aged 12 on a state-funded scholarship, has won 18 medals in various international competitions. He has spent most of his career overseas and most of his time traveling and performing.

The virtuoso launched a Chopin 200 commemoration tour in 2008 that has taken him from the United States to Australia and New Zealand and from Europe to China and Hong Kong during the last three years.

Chen said he has played Chopin since he was a teenager, when his interpretations of Chopin received high acclaim from Austrian media and music critics.

"Looking back, my performance at the time would not even interest me now because it was not that good. As I'm now older and have experienced setbacks, challenges and heartache, I think I am able to interprete Chopin's works better, " he said. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J