Saturday, April 30, 2011

Taiwan reaffirms wish to take part in regional economic integration

Taipei, April 30 (CNA) Taiwan's Economic Affairs Minister Shih Yen-hsiang reaffirmed Saturday Taipei's wish to participate in East Asia economic integration, but hinted that local people and industries might not be ready to accept consequences of such integration.

Taiwan is keen on engaging in international mechanisms to forge better economic integration in East Asia, such as the Free Trade Agreement of the Asia-Pacific (FTTAP) and the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP) , Shih said in his closing remarks at an international conference in Taipei.

The International Conference on ECFA and East Asia Economic Integration, organized by the local think tank National Policy Foundation, discussed the impact and influence the landmark trade agreement between China and Taiwan has made in the region.

The minister said ECFA, as well as negotiations for free trade with Singapore, signals to the world that Taiwan does not want to be left out of the process of regional economic integration.

Progress has been made, he added, as India and the Philippines, as well as several Southeast Asian countries, have approached Taiwan to liberalize trade.

However, Shih pointed out, there will be many obstacles for Taiwan because it does not have official diplomatic ties with most countries in the region, and has too many political limitations when conducting free trade negotiations.

He also said most people and certain industries in Taiwan do not seem ready to open up domestic markets and face international competition, despite realizing that such arrangements would allow them to do business in other countries more easily as well.

Singapore is the first country to negotiate with Taiwan for an economic partnership agreement, after Taiwan signed the ECFA, for various reasons, said Sarah Y. Tong, a researcher at National University of Singapore. Among them, the two countries have had historically friendly ties. In addition, their industries do not compete as directly against each other.

In that sense, she added, Indonesia is also an ideal partner for Taiwan because its economic structure differs very much with Taiwan's.

Jeff Lin, a professor of Economics at National Taiwan University (NTU), said he is confident about the future of Taiwan-ASEAN economic partnerships because tariffs between the two sides are already low.

Lin called for Taiwan to further open its markets, especially in its service sector, to take advantage of synergies with other countries.

Regarding agriculture, one of the most sensitive sectors in free trade negotiations, Lin argued that it would be less of a concern because Taiwan's government has a strategy to promote its organic agriculture.

In Northeast Asia, negotiations between China, Japan and South Korea for a free trade agreement is an ambitious plan, but the process has been slow, said Lu Hsin-chang, an associate professor at NTU.

But the recent nuclear crisis in Japan has forced the country to cut down on electricity use. One quarter of its corporate activities might relocated to other countries, Lu said, adding that the spread of Japanese businesses could speed up the momentum for economic integration. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ly

Friday, April 29, 2011

British expats celebrate royal wedding with `high-rise' street party

Taipei, April 29 (CNA) British expatriates in Taiwan got together in a "street party-style" event Friday to watch live coverage of the wedding of Prince William and Katherine Middleton "with excitement and joy."

They were happy with the arrangement, even though the party was actually held on the 26th floor, instead of on the street level.

Members of the British Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (BCCT) and staff of the British Trade and Commerce Office (BTCO) arrived at the party dressed in red, white and blue -- the colors of the Union Jack, Britain's national flag -- with some even wearing traditional Scottish kilts, where they were riveted to a giant television screen showing satellite images from London's Westminster Abbey.

The event, co-organized by the BCCT and BTCO, the representative office of the United Kingdom in Taiwan, featured British food such as fish and chips and shepherd's pie, in a traditional street party-style celebration.

"In the U.K., people close the street and set up long tables in the middle of the road (to celebrate.) They have cakes, chocolates and jelly for their children. We're trying to create something similar... We're happy to bring this tradition to Taiwan, " said BTCO Director David Campbell, who was sporting a Union Jack vest.

"But we're having it here (on the 26th floor) so we won't disrupt traffic, " Campbell said.

The huge interest generated by the wedding is not surprising, the top U.K. diplomat in Taiwan said, because "people have followed Prince William from the day he was born."

"But at the end of the day, it's about a man and a woman falling in love and getting married, " he said, adding that Friday will be a wonderful day not just for the British but for people around the world.

The local media has also taken great interest in what is arguably the most anticipated royal wedding since the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana Spencer -- Prince William's parents -- in 1981.

Sanli TV, CtiTV, ETTV and Next TV have sent journalists to London to broadcast the wedding live from Westminster Abbey, according to the director. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Some British expats in Taiwan to celebrate royal wedding

Taipei, April 28 (CNA) Some British diplomats and expatriates will attend a party Friday in Taipei to celebrate and witness the royal wedding of Prince William of Wales and his bride Catherine Middleton.

A street party-style event, organized by the British Trade and Commerce Office (BTCO) in Taipei -- the de facto United Kingdom representative office in Taiwan -- and the British Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (BCCT) , will be held at the BTCO office to allow British expatriates in Taiwan to celebrate the event, said BTCO Director David Campbell.

"It will be in street party style. Street parties are a great tradition in Britain and for a century have been linked to royal and other national events. All 50 seats are fully booked, " Campbell said.

"There has been a lot of interest in the event, not just from British nationals but from many other people who see this as a `good news' royal story and wish the couple well, " he said.

The local media has also taken great interest in what is arguably the most anticipated royal wedding since the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana Spencer -- Prince William's parents -- in 1981.

Sanli TV, CtiTV, ETTV and Next TV have sent journalists to London and will broadcast the wedding live from Westminster Abbey Friday, according to the director.

Campbell said he remembered the huge interest and excitement at the time of the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981, when millions of people watched the spectacle on the streets of London or viewed the ceremony on television with friends and family.

"The additional visitors who come to London especially for the wedding could easily spend upwards of NT$2,500 million (US$87.1 million). However, the big opportunity is not about people coming for the wedding but about the billions of people who watch it on TV and who might be encouraged to visit the U.K. as a result, " according to the top U.K. diplomat in Taiwan.

"This wedding, combined with other forthcoming major events such as The Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 London Olympics, are expected to generate well over NT$100 billion over the next few years, " he added. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Taiwan working to maintain U.S.ties amid personnel changes: MOFA

Taipei, April 28 (CNA) Taiwan has been making every effort to ensure that its relations with the United States would not be adversely affected by a recent trade dispute and a series of personnel changes in the U.S. administration, Deputy Foreign Minister Shen Lyushun said Thursday.

"We have been trying to make new friends and keep in touch with our old friends, " Shen told lawmakers in the legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has also been putting a lot of effort into minimizing the damage to U.S.-Taiwan relations caused by Taiwan's partial ban on U.S. beef imports, he said.

In January, Taipei blocked some shipments of U.S. beef after it was found that the meat contained residues of ractopamine, a leanness enhancing drug that is banned in meat products in Taiwan. The move was seen by the U.S. as a violation of a beef protocol signed with Taiwan in 2009.

In the committee meeting, lawmakers raised questions about the possible effects of the beef issue and other developments on Taiwan's engagement with the U.S. -- in particular on Taiwan's efforts to upgrade its fleet of F-16 A/B jet fighters by purchasing U.S. F-16 C/Ds.

In response, Shen admitted that Taiwan's hopes of starting a new round of negotiations with the U.S. under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) had been hindered by the ractopamine dispute.

U.S. Trade Representative Ronald Kirk recently said that the U.S. was disappointed over the beef row with Taiwan.

Apart from the beef row, another concern is that there have been several personnel changes in the Asian-Pacific affairs division of the U.S. government since the second half of 2010, the lawmakers said.

These changes include the resignation of Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and the reassignment of Deputy Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs David Shear to the post of U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam earlier this month, the legislators noted.

They also mentioned U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement this week that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Leon Panetta had been nominated to replace outgoing Robert Gates as the Defense Secretary.

In addition, Derek Mitchell, former principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs who worked as a reporter in Taiwan in 1989, has been appointed as a special envoy to Myanmar, they said.

Another resignation was that of Wallace Gregson, former assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security affairs, in March.

The changes left Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, as the longest serving senior official dealing with Asia affairs in the Obama Administration.

Legislator Lin Yu-fang of the ruling Kuomintang raised concerns about the effects of these changes on Taiwan's arms procurement plans, while Legislator Peng Shao-chin of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party mentioned the possible impact on trade in general.

In response, Shen said his ministry has always worked hard to maintain relationships with serving and retired U.S. officials and to establish contacts on Capitol Hill.

For example, arrangements are now being made for former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, who served during the Bill Clinton administration, to visit Taiwan, Shen said.

Regarding the beef dispute, he said Taiwan had done its best to explain the matter to the U.S. and had been trying to make sure the issue would not affect other efforts such as Taiwan's bid to join the U.S. visa-waiver program. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

China policy, economy at heart of Taiwan's presidential dogfight

Taipei, April 27 (CNA) The nine-month race for Taiwan's presidency unofficially began on Wednesday, with scholars and observers agreeing that China policy, the economy and voters in central Taiwan hold the key to victory.

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen was named the winner of her party's presidential primary on Wednesday, setting up a battle between her and President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang for Taiwan's top political office.

Scholars see the election, which will be held in January 2012, as "too close to call" but contended that the two candidates' policies toward China could determine the outcome.

Ma, who won his first term in a landslide victory in 2008 and has forged closer ties with China to reduce cross-Taiwan Strait tensions, is expected to take the initiative on the issue by attacking the DPP, which has been criticized for its strong anti-China position, said Chen Chao-chien, a political scientist at Ming Chuan University.

Tsai, 54, has been "ambiguous" in previous comments on China policy and is expected to stick with the strategy because she does not want to "scare away" independent voters, who have had doubts about the party's hawkish position in the past, Chen said.

Meanwhile, Tsai is expected to be the aggressor on the economy, an issue that Ma could find very difficult to defend, given that unemployment, income inequality and inflation are still major concerns for many voters despite booming trade with China, he argued.

"It's almost guaranteed that both candidates will try to leverage their advantages and avoid their disadvantages, " he said.

Another factor at play, Chen said, was the decision to hold Taiwan's presidential and legislative elections together for the first time in history, after having been held at least three months apart in the past.

Combining the elections will favor the 60-year-old Ma, who also serves as KMT chairman, because legislative candidates will have to appeal to voters to cast ballots for themselves and Ma at the same time, Chen said.

But Ma cannot expect as easy a victory as he scored in 2008 when he won by more than 2 million votes, because Tsai is at least as popular -- if not more popular than -- Ma among urban residents, women and young people, voters considered to be strong Ma backers in the past.

With northern Taiwan voters traditionally favoring the KMT and southern Taiwan strongly behind the DPP stronghold, election results in central Taiwan "will literally be the tie-breaker in the election," Chen said.

Wang Yeh-li, a political scientist at National Taiwan University, shared similar views, saying that China policy and the economy will be the main issues during the presidential campaign.

Tsai managed to touch on her China policy in platform presentations during the DPP primary but did not present concrete policies for voters to understand the direction in which she intended to take Taiwan, Wang said.

"She is not likely to be able to maintain her ambiguous strategy in the entire campaign, " he said.

While Tsai's nomination as the first female presidential candidate was a milestone, Wang argued that Taiwan's voters might not be ready for a female president "if voters in the United States were not ready to accept one."

Wang suspected that the combined election favored the KMT, noting that turnout rates of the past two legislative elections were 58 and 59 percent respectively while the turnout rate of a presidential election usually surpassed 80 percent.

"We won't be able to tell in advance how these 20 percent of voters cast their votes, " he said.

The DPP will have to immediately tackle the challenge of uniting the party after Tsai's narrow victory over former Premier Su Tseng-chang in the party's primary, which was determined by opinion polls.

Su said previously he would not serve as a vice presidential candidate if he lost the primary but called for supporters to back Tsai in his concession speech Wednesday afternoon.

The DPP, which has insisted the party would need to be unified to win the 2012 presidential race, and its supporters are concerned that the Tsai campaign will suffer if it fails to garner support from Su and his backers.

DPP legislators have suggested that Su run in the legislative elections and vie to become the legislative speaker so that the party will be more competitive in the presidential and legislative races. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

AIT set to move to bigger compound in 2015

Can an office-building project symbolize the United States' commitment to U.S.-Taiwan ties? The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) , the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan, hopes and believes the answer is "yes."

The U.S. and Taiwan are engaged in a bitter dispute over Taiwan's ban on imports of U.S. beef and in a discussion of a trade agreement, with increasing appeals from U.S. academia to "abandon Taiwan" to improve U.S.-China relations.

William Stanton, the AIT Taipei Office director, has always pointed to the US$216 million new office project as solid proof of U.S. support, saying that it "symbolizes the importance and vibrancy of U.S.-Taiwan ties."

The official overseeing the relocation of the office, which is likely to happen in early 2015, agreed with Stanton.

Located in Taipei's eastern district of Neihu, the project will replace AIT's current compound in downtown Taipei as "a flagship project" and "one of our top overseas projects, " said Lawrence Ostrowski, project director under the Overseas Buildings Operations of the U.S. State Department.

The existing 60-year-old AIT compound is too crowded and too expensive to maintain, AIT spokesman Chris Kavanagh told CNA in the first media tour of the construction site of the new complex.

The 6.5 hectare new office compound, planned for more than a decade, will include 15,000-square meters of office buildings that will be home to all of AIT's Taipei facilities, including the Agricultural Trade and Commercial offices, the American Cultural Center, and the Chinese Language School.

The project prides itself on its "green initiative, " using only 14 percent of the maximum 40 percent of land upon which it is allowed to build, Ostrowski said.

It will also be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified, and will meet international design, construction and operation standards for high performance "green" buildings, he said.

With this goal in mind, he went on, solar panels, most of which will be Taiwan-made, will be used to generate around 15 percent of the total electricity demand of the compound, which will also utilize rainwater for irrigation of its grounds and will preserve most of the existing vegetation on the site.

Ostrowski described the project as a "hybrid, " that has creativity in its design process and is not limited to the standard U.S. embassy design program announced by the State Department in 2002 that produced "boxy, prison-like embassies."

Construction of the project is still in the soil preparation segment of a 30-month long Phase One, during which all elements except the main building will be constructed.

Ostrowski brushed aside media rumors that materials and even the construction workers were shipped from the U.S. for security concerns and that "secret basements" were being built.

"As you can see, all the work in Phase One will be done by locals, while in Phase Two, the great majority will also be done by local workers, " he said.

All construction materials, except for special items such as security doors and windows, will be purchased from local manufacturers, he went on.

"And we don't have a basement," he added.

Ostrowski also denied reports that the construction had blocked local traffic, and added that AIT is working with the local authorities, including the Taipei city government, the Executive Yuan, the Foreign Ministry and the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative Office, on issues such as soil and water conservation, soil disposal and pollution control. By Chris Wang Staff reporter ENDITEM/J

Sunday, April 24, 2011

DPP to conduct national poll for presidential primary

Taipei, April 24 (CNA)The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is scheduled to begin telephone polling Monday, the final step of its primary process to decide the party's nominee in the 2012 presidential election.

After the two-day poll, which could be extended to a third day if not completed in time, the party is expected to announce the winner on Wednesday or Thursday before making the nomination official in early May.

One of three aspirants -- DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, former Premier Su Tseng-chang and former DPP Chairman Hsu Hsin-liang -- will represent the DPP in its quest to unseat incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou, who will be seeking re-election as the candidate of the Kuomintang (KMT).

Five polling companies have been hired to conduct the surveys, with each one required to obtain 3,000 valid samples, according to the DPP.

In the surveys, which will use what is known as "contrast style polling," the party will not ask respondents which DPP candidate they support.

Instead, each respondent will be asked to voice their preference in each of three potential contests: Su vs. Ma, Tsai vs. Ma, and Hsu vs. Ma.

According to the DPP rules, if only one candidate beats Ma in the poll, he or she will be the winner. If multiple candidates beat or lose to Ma, the one with the highest score wins.

In case of a tie, the candidate with the highest winning margin or the smallest losing margin wins.

The unconventional polling style has sparked debate among DPP supporters and verbal jabs among the three aspirants over the poll's vulnerability to manipulation.

Party supporters worry that KMT backers responding to the poll are likely to back the DPP candidates with the least chance of winning to help the KMT gain an upper hand in the election.

The candidates were concerned that DPP supporters might resort to "strategic voting" -- backing their own candidate against Ma but supporting Ma against the other two DPP choices even if that does not accurately reflect their feelings.

Tsai's campaign in particular has been rebuked by her opponents for asking her supporters to "only back Tsai, " implying that they should back Ma in the other two questions.

The DPP, which held four platform presentations this month for the three hopefuls, was in power from 2000-2008. In 2000, it became the first non-KMT political party to win a presidential election in Taiwan. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Southeast Asian countries interested in Kuokuang project: official

Taipei, April 21 (CNA) Several Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia and Indonesia, have expressed interest in hosting the Kuokuang Petrochemical project that is generating massive protests in Taiwan, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Thursday.

Malaysia and Indonesia are among a number of Southeast Asian countries that expressed interest in the project via Taiwan's overseas representative offices, said James C.K. Tien, director-general of the Department of Asian and Pacific Affairs, at a regular press briefing.

The final review of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the multi-million-dollar project was being carried out on Thursday.

Opponents of the plan to build the petrochemical complex in the Dacheng Wetlands in central Taiwan have said it would create losses that would outweigh its benefits.

With several environmental groups, students and other activists protesting against the project, the idea of moving it offshore is being explored.

Malaysia was the first country reported to be interested in the plant. Its deputy minister of international trade and industry Mukhriz Mahathir said April 10 that Malaysia will be flexible on special requests by CPC Corp., the parent company of Kuokuang.

However, the countries that have expressed interest have not submitted any substantial plans for hosting the project, Tien said.

Asked by reporters whether those countries were concerned about the possible environmental effects of the project, Tien said every country has different priorities.

Meanwhile, government agencies in Taiwan have been sending mixed messages on the idea of relocating the Kuokuang plant overseas.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said April 7 that it supported the proposal, while the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said the same day that it was not considering moving the first phase of the project out of the country.

Protests organized by environmental activists were held in various cities in Taiwan Wednesday, and of press time Thursday crowds were gathered outside the EPA building awaiting the decision on the EIA. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Taiwan wants peaceful resolution to South China Sea dispute: MOFA

Taipei, April 21 (CNA) Taiwan hopes to achieve a peaceful resolution to the South China Sea territorial dispute and is not in favor of any actions that could cause an escalation of tensions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Thursday.

"We hope that the issue could eventually be resolved rationally and peacefully though a multilateral mechanism, " said James C.K. Tien, director-general of the MOFA's Department of Asian and Pacific Affairs, at a regular press briefing.

The hot-button issue of claims by Taiwan, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei to all or part of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea area resurfaced last week when the Philippine government made an official complaint to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf about China's claim to the whole area.

Meanwhile, it was reported in the media in China and Vietnam that the two countries had agreed to "work closely to develop basic measures" on issues related to the South China Sea.

Asked by reporters to comment on the recent bilateral discussions between some of the claimant countries, Tien said Taiwan will also try to engage in bilateral talks with some of them.

Taipei summoned the Philippine representative Antonio Basilio Monday to reiterate Taiwan's sovereignty claim over the entire South China Sea and urged the other countries to include Taiwan in their dialogue in order to resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner.

"We are opposed to any move that would raise tensions in the region," Tien said.

Taiwan had addressed its claim to the Philippines, but not Vietnam, Malaysia or the other claimants, because it was the Philippines that had brought the matter to the fore again with its protest to the U.N., he said.

Tien said that he was not worried about Taiwan, as a non-U.N. member, being omitted from any possible multilateral discussions on the South China Sea issue, if the U.N. eventually intervened.

"The international body should respect Taiwan's claim," he said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ pc

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

DPP presidential hopefuls speak on cross-strait issues

Taipei, April 20 (CNA) Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, one of three candidates in the opposition party's presidential primary, said Wednesday night that Taiwan should focus not only on its relations with China, but also with its other major partners.

In a 10-minute presentation in the last of four platform presentations, Tsai explained the concept of an "Oceanic Taiwan."

She said that Taiwan's location in the Western Pacific gives it an advantage of being surrounded by the major economies of the United States, China, Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Therefore, Taiwan should not pay attention only to China and ignore its other partners, Tsai said.

Taiwan has always been an "ocean economy" with people who have "oceanic characteristics," she said.

Tsai, 54, briefly touched on the issue in the first discussion April 9, saying that Taiwan should not sacrifice its national security for minor benefits from China. Taiwan should shape its relations with China under an "international and regional framework," instead of a bilateral one, she said at that time.

She reiterated the same view in her presentation Wednesday, saying that Taiwan would rather be "the center of the world" than "a frontier of China."

The current "China-leaning" administration of President Ma Ying-jeou is taking Taiwan in the latter direction, she said..

Tsai also said there was no "1992 Consensus" between Taiwan and China, and noted that the existence of the controversial agreement on "one-China, different interpretations" had been denied by previous Taiwan presidents and Taiwan's chief cross-strait negotiator.

"The concept lacks public support and is too weak to be the foundation of relations across the Taiwan Strait," she said.

The Ma administration and Beijing have both described the consensus as the basis of cross-strait ties.

Tsai had been accused by her detractors of shying away previously from the sensitive issue of China policy, arguably the most important topic in Taiwan's presidential election.

In his presentation, former Premier Su Tseng-chang expressed similar views on the issue, stressing that Taiwan should take a "hedged approach" in its exchanges with China to avoid the hidden instability behind China's economic rise.

The 63-year-old Su had said in a previous presentation that he hoped Taiwan would shine as a light that would show China the path towards democracy. He had also advocated that Taiwan improve its relations with the U.S., the European Union (EU) , Japan and other Asian countries so that it would not have to "face China on its own."

The third contender Hsu Hsin-liang, 69, called for a dramatically different policy toward China, saying that he if he is elected, he will allow a full-scale opening to Chinese investment, students and tourists.

The former DPP chairman had said previously that the "one-China" concept was "not that scary" and a "DPP with no historical baggage" would be in a better position to develop a discourse on Taiwan-China relations.

Following a national public opinion poll April 25-29, the DPP will decide in early May who will be its standard-bearer in the 2012 presidential election.

The previous sessions in the DPP series of discussions were held on April 9, 13 and 16. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

American player wins Taiwan basketball honor

Taipei, April 19 (CNA) American forward Rashad Jones-Jennings was named Most Valuable Player of the Super Basketball League (SBL) Tuesday, making him the first foreign player to win the annual honor in Taiwan's top basketball competition.

The 2.03-meter forward averaged a record-breaking 21.1 rebounds per game and helped his team, Pure Youth Construction, to finish as runner-up in the regular season with 19 wins and 11 losses.

The seven-team league held its annual award ceremony that day, five days after Taiwan Beer beat Dacin Tigers 4-1 in the best-of-seven finals to win its third title.

Jones-Jennings, known as a "rebound machine," led the U.S. Division I college basketball in rebounds in the 2006-2007 season with 13.1 rebounds per game playing for the University of Arkansas when he was a college senior.

The 26-year-old made the SBL First Team along with Tien Lei of Dacin Tigers, Chen Chih-chung of Yulon Luxgen, Chen Shun-hsiang of Bank of Taiwan and Chen Ching-hwan of Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor (KKL).

Pure Youth head coach Hsu Chin-tse, 37, became the first three-time Coach of the Year award winner after previously winning in 2008 and 2010.

Chien Chia-hung won his sixth Man of the Year award to cap a glorious afternoon for Pure Youth, which lost to Dacin 4-1 in the first round playoffs.

Chang Jung-hsuan of KKL was named Most Improved Player of the Year, while American forward Marcus Dove got the nod as the Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league in steals and blocked shots.

Taiwan Beer forward guard Yang Ching-min was named Most Valuable Player of the SBL Finals.

The SBL, the top-tier basketball league in Taiwan, was established in 2003. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lawmaker proposes sending marines back to South China Sea

Taipei, April 18 (CNA) A lawmaker proposed Monday that Taiwan send its marine corps back to the South China Sea to strengthen its position in the regional dispute over claims to the area.

Taiwan should redeploy its marine corps, which was replaced by the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) in 2000, to the South China Sea to increase its bargaining power in the disputed area, said ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang.

Six countries -- Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines -- claim all or part of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea area, in which lies the Spratly Islands, the Paracel Islands, the Pratas Islands, the Macclesfield Bank and the Scarborough Shoal.

Taiwan controls Dongsha Island, the largest island in the entire South China Sea, and Taiping Island, the largest island in the Spratlys. It withdrew its marine corp in 2000 in an attempt to reduce tensions in the region.

However, the hot-button issue resurfaced last week after a meeting between Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Guo Boxiong, vice chairman of the Chinese Central Military Commission, which resulted in an agreement to "work closely to develop basic measures" on issues related to the area, according to Vietnamese media and China's Xinhua news agency.

Meanwhile, the government of the Philippines made an official complaint to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf regarding China's claim to the sea area.

China has said the area is part of its "core interests, " while the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last July that the U.S. "has a national interest in freedom of navigation and open access" to the region.

"With the involved parties stepping up their rhetoric and dialogue, the issue could flare up sometime in the future," Lin said. "Taiwan should increase its military presence in the region to gain more leverage."

China, with its naval capability, could adopt a tougher stance, he warned.

Meanwhile, the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have in recent years "dragged the United States and the European Union (EU) into the dispute to improve their bargaining power, " he noted.

The legislator said he had opposed the troop withdrawal in 2000 because he thought the move had hurt Taiwan's position in international negotiations.

Taiwan should "send the troops back as soon as possible because it will be necessary sooner or later," he said.

Lin proposed that Taiwan also consider deploying anti-ship missiles in the region.

In response, Foreign Minister Timothy C.T. Yang reiterated the Republic of China's claim to sovereignty over the entire South China Sea and said he hoped the issue could be resolved through peaceful dialogue.

However, Yang said that he would support "any measure that would increase Taiwan's capability to protect its territory."

It was not the first time Taiwan politicians or officials proposed sending troops back to the South China Sea. In 2006, then Defense Minister Lee Jye said in the legislature that he would consider such a move because China could use military force to invade Dongsha Island and Taiping Island.

The ROC military and the CGA share the task of safeguarding Taiwan's territory, but military deployment "is a sophisticated issue that requires a lot of effort, " Vice Defense Minister Lin Yu-pao said Monday in response to the suggestion to send troops back to the area. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Taiwan advised to be aggressive on South China Sea dispute

Taipei, April 17 (CNA) Taiwan should be more actively seeking to engage in discussions on South China Sea affairs to avoid being left out of the equation as Asian countries around the region step up their efforts to engage in dialogue, scholars said Sunday.

"The best way to solve the territorial dispute over the South China Sea is to increase bilateral or multilateral dialogues to prevent tension caused by accidents, and Taiwan should be part of these discussions, " said Liu Shih-chung, a researcher at the Taiwan Brain Trust, a local think tank.

Taiwan, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei each claim all or part of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea.

The hot-button issue resurfaced last week after Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met with Guo Boxiong, vice chairman of the Chinese Central Military Commission, and they agreed to "work closely to develop basic measures" on issues related to the sea, according to Vietnamese media and China's Xinhua news agency.

Meanwhile, the government of the Philippines made an official complaint to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf about China's claim to the sea.

The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed April 14 reports that the country had filed a formal protest with the U.N. April 5 over China's territorial claim over the entire South China Sea.

"It seems to me that the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou has been very low-key on the issue in order not to affect the warming ties across the Taiwan Strait, " Liu said.

The last time Taiwan voiced its sovereignty over the South China Sea was July 29 last year, days after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional forum in Vietnam that the U.S. "has a national interest in freedom of navigation and open access" to the region.

The South China Sea dispute is not only related to sovereignty, but also to energy resources and piracy, among issues, Liu said, adding that Taiwan should leverage the airstrip it maintains on Dongsha Island and hold discussions with other countries on programs such as humanitarian relief cooperation so that it can remain "in the equation."

Liu said the government has been trying to seek cooperation with China on the issue through meetings between scholars from both sides of the strait -- what he described as "second-track diplomacy" -- but added that no decisions have been made.

The U.S. will also play an active role in the matter, Liu said, because "that's what the ASEAN countries want."

"The ASEAN countries want to establish sound relations with China but they are also concerned about China's possible hegemony in the region, which is why they want U.S. involvement, " he said.

Speaking on the same occasion, Wang Kao-cheng, director of Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, said Taiwan's exclusion in the dispute reflects the reality of international politics, given that it does not have diplomatic relations with the other claimants of the South China Sea.

He said Taiwan should be more aggressive in seeking dialogues, as "Taiwan's military presence on Dongsha Island and its claim of sovereignty over the region are facts."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was scheduled to hold a meeting the following day to respond to the think tank's findings, according to James C.K. Tien, director-general of the ministry's Department of Asian and Pacific Affairs. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Friday, April 15, 2011

Taiwan Beer wins pro-basketball league title

Taipei, April 15 (CNA) Taiwan Beer beat Dacin Tiger 83-78 Friday night in Game 5 of the 2011 Super Basketball League (SBL) Finals to win its third title in team history with a 4-1 series win.

Taiwan Beer, which led the seven-team league in the regular season with 22 wins and 8 losses, swept the defending champion Yulon 4-0 in the first round of the playoffs before routing Dacin in the best-of-seven series for its first title in three years.

The regular season champs, who won back-to-back titles in 2007-2008, now has a 2-1 record over the Tigers in the SBL Finals. Taiwan Beer captured the title over Dacin by 4-2 in 2007, while Dacin, in turn, beat Taiwan Beer by 4-3 in 2009.

The team arguably has the best lineup in the league, which includes American forward Emmanuel Jones and local players Wu Tai-hao and Yang Ching-min.

The SBL, the top-tier basketball league in Taiwan, was established in 2003. Yulon won four titles in the league's first seven years. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ly

Taiwan delegation leader talks with China president at Boao forum

Boao, China, April 15 (CNA) The head of Taiwan's delegation to the 2011 Boao Forum for Asia exchanged greetings and chatted briefly with Chinese President Hu Jintao Friday ahead of the annual event's opening.

Frederick F. Chien, a retired diplomat who was appointed by President Ma Ying-jeou to head Taiwan's 38-member delegation, declined, however, to reveal what the two talked about.

Asked if he conveyed any messages from Ma to China's top leader, Chien simply said, "I'm not a messenger."

Badgered further by Taiwanese reporters about his brief conversation with Hu, Chien said it would not be appropriate for him to reveal what was said.

Because of Hu's tight schedule, Chien took advantage of a 15-minute photo session between Hu and members of Taiwan's delegation to chat with Hu twice. The session took place about half an hour before the forum opened.

Chien is attending the forum in his capacity as a senior adviser to the Taipei-based Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation.

Now in its 10th year, the Boao Forum for Asia is modeled after the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and is "committed to promoting regional economic integration and bringing Asian countries even closer to their development goals," according to its website.

Vice President Vincent Siew said earlier this week that the Boao Forum is "one of the important platforms for cross-Taiwan Strait affairs."

Siew's participation in the Boao Forum in 2008, soon after the Ma-Siew team won Taiwan's presidential-vice presidential election, was seen as a breakthrough that served as a catalyst for warmer cross-strait ties.

Chien will chair an "Across-Straits Business Roundtable" Saturday, which will explore how Taiwanese businesses can tap into the opportunities created by China's 12th Five-Year Plan.

Taiwanese business leaders, especially those from the financial sector, will also seek to discuss with their Chinese counterparts how they can develop further cooperation under the terms of the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement signed last June.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, South African President Jacob Zuma, South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero were among the heads of state and government leaders expected to attend the Boao Forum's opening ceremony. (By Eva Feng and Chris Wang) Enditem/ls

Taiwan delegation reportedly to meet China president at Boao forum

Taipei, April 15 (CNA) The Taiwan delegation to the 2011 Boao Forum for Asia was scheduled to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao before the opening ceremony Friday in the Chinese province of Hainan, sources said.

Earlier reports had said Hu would not meet with the Taiwan delegation because of his tight schedule. However, sources said later that Hu will meet with the delegation leader Frederick F. Chien and Taiwanese corporate representatives for about 15 minutes before the forum's opening plenary session.

Chien, a senior adviser to the Taipei-based Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation, was appointed by President Ma Ying-jeou as the leader of the 38-member Taiwan delegation to the annual forum, which is being held April 14-16 and is now in its 10th year.

The forum has been described by Vice President Vincent Siew as "one of the important platforms for cross-strait affairs."

Siew's participation in the Boao Forum in 2008, soon after he and Ma won the presidential election, was seen as a breakthrough that kick-started warmer ties across the Taiwan Strait.

This year's meeting is significant for Taiwan and China as it is the first Boao Forum to be held since the two sides signed a historical Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) last June to liberalize cross-strait trade.

Chien will chair an "Across-Straits Business Roundtable" Saturday, which will explore how Taiwanese businesses can tap into the opportunities afforded by China's 12th Five-Year Plan.

Taiwanese business leaders, especially those from the financial sector, will also seek to discuss with their Chinese counterparts how they can develop further cooperation under the terms of the ECFA, which took effect January 1.

The forum will open with a keynote address by President Hu.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, South African President Jacob Zuma, South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero are among the heads of state and government leaders scheduled to attend the ceremony.

The forum is being held in Boao, a resort township in the south China province of Hainan.

A meeting of leaders from Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa -- a BRICS summit -- is also being held concurrently in the city of Sanya in Hainan province. (By Eva Feng and Chris Wang) Enditem /pc

Thursday, April 14, 2011

No date set for opening to individual mainland Chinese tourists: MAC

Taipei, April 14 (CNA) The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said Thursday that there has been no precise date set for allowing independent mainland Chinese tourists to enter Taiwan, but added that it will be no later than July 1.

A local media report that individual mainland Chinese tourists will be allowed entry from the Dragon Boat Festival holiday on June 6 with the maximum daily number of entries set at 500 was incorrect, MAC Vice Minister Liu Te-hsun said in a regular press briefing.

The MAC is Taiwan's top cross-strait policy-making body.

The Taiwan Strait Tourism Association and the Cross-Strait Tourism Exchange Association, organizations authorized by Taipei and Beijing, respectively, to deal with tourism exchange affairs, are still hammering out the details, he said.

At the moment, tourists from mainland China can only enter Taiwan as part of a tour group with a maximum of 4,000 people allowed to enter the country per day.

Local tourism businesses are hoping for increased business opportunities as a result of the opening to individual Chinese tourists, especially in the area of medical tourism.

However, there are also concerns about the possibility of a dramatic increase in the number of mainland Chinese tourists who overstay their visas, and individual Chinese visitors might be required to pay a cash deposit upon entry, Liu said.

In addition, local travel agencies will face the challenges of rising costs and increased risk in accepting individual mainland Chinese tourists, Liu said. The government holds travel agents responsible for their clients and fines them if their charges overstay or abscond while in Taiwan. The agents will find it much more difficult to control and monitor the movements of independent tourists compared with dealing with groups. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Taiwan to re-examine law in bid to resolve U.S. beef row

Taipei, April 14 (CNA) Taiwan still welcomes American beef imports that do not contain the food additive ractopamine and will re-examine its domestic law in July with a view to resolving a lingering beef dispute with the United States, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Thursday.

Taiwan is still importing great volumes of U.S. beef that do not contain ractopamine, a banned food additive in Taiwan, and it will continue to hold dialogue with the U.S. to resolve the year-long dispute over the issue, MOFA spokesman James Chang told reporters.

In January, Taipei blocked some shipments of U.S. beef after it was found that the meat contained residues of ractopamine. The blockage was seen by the U.S. as a violation of a beef protocol signed with Taiwan in 2009.

Washington subsequently decided to postpone a planned new round of negotiations under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) , an official framework for handling Taiwan-U.S. trade and economic issues.

Chang said beef that contains ractopamine is only a small percentage of Taiwan's U.S. beef imports, which in turn is a small part of overall Taiwan-U.S. trade relations.

He urged the U.S. to look at the issue in the broader context of bilateral relations and expressed the hope that dispute would be settled soon with continued communication between Taipei and Washington.

Ractopamine is prohibited by law in Taiwan, but a Maximum Residue Level (MRL) for the substance could eventually be set, he said.

However, Chang said, this will not happen before a meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission in July, and not unless there is consensus on the issue following public hearings and joint consultations of different government agencies.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, a United Nations-based body that develops international standards for food, is expected to set a maximum safety level for ractopamine in its July meeting. (By Chris Wang) Enditem /pc

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lawmakers question motive of foreign skepticism

Taipei, April 13 (CNA) Ruling party lawmakers questioned on Wednesday the motive behind an open letter from foreign nationals that accused the Presidential Office of being politically motivated in launching a probe into the previous administration's handling of official documents.

Legislators of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) used strong wording at a session of the Foreign and National Defense Committee to express skepticism over the letter, signed by 34 foreign academics and former officials, which was sent to President Ma Ying-jeou Saturday.

The group of foreign nationals included former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Nat Bellocchi; Stephen Yates, former deputy assistant for national security affairs to former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney; and Bruce Jacobs, a professor at Australia's Monash University and expert on Taiwanese politics.

The group questioned why the Ma administration did not disclose that 36,000 files handled by former President Chen Shui-bian and his staff from 2000-2008 were missing in May 2008 when it took over power and why it took three years to release the information.

They concluded that the move "suggests a political motive."

KMT Legislator John Chiang, said the opinion of Bellocchi, who writes weekly columns for a pro-opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) local newspaper, has long lost its credibility and subjectivity because his position is obvious.

The foreigners wrote the letter simply to criticize the Ma administration, and "today I'm here to condemn their behavior, " Chiang said.

Chang Hsien-yao, also a KMT legislator, wondered whether the letter, which was published by local newspapers in both Chinese and English, was written by the scholars themselves, arguing that he did not see their signatures under the letter.

Another KMT lawmaker, Shuai Hua-ming, said the impact of the letter could not be underestimated, and he urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to immediately contact the scholars and former officials and "give them accurate information and an explanation."

In response to the legislators' comments, MOFA Deputy Minister Thomas Ping-fu Hou pledged to instruct Taiwan's representative office in Washington and MOFA officials to handle the task.

MOFA spokesman James Chang said Tuesday that the government has a code that regulates the handling of the nation's files, and he asked that people from abroad respect the Republic of China's rule of law.

On Monday, presidential spokesman Lo Chih-chiang explained that it took nearly three years for his office to bring up the matter because the May 2008 changeover was only ceremonial and the presidential office had to track the documents manually.

(By Chris Wang)


Lawmakers worry beef dispute could harm Taiwan-U.S. relations

Taipei, April 13 (CNA) Lawmakers expressed concern Wednesday that the lingering dispute over American beef imports could jeopardize bilateral relations with the United States.

U. S. officials have stepped up their rhetoric in recent months against Taiwan's partial ban of U.S. beef, which has "seriously eroded" Taiwan-U.S. relations on many fronts, ruling Kuomintang (KMT) legislator Justin Chou said in a session of the Foreign and National Defense Committee of the Legislative Yuan.

Chou specifically referred to a seminar in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, where American Institute in Taiwan’s (AIT) chief trade representative, Rick Ruzicka, lobbed criticisms at Taiwan’s handling of the dispute. Ruzicka said the beef row is preventing Taiwan from holding a new round of high-level trade talks with the U.S. and causing Taiwan to lose congressional support for continued negotiations.

This comes on the heels of similar critiques in recent months by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt and AIT Director William Stanton.

"Taiwan cannot make this a 'zero-sum game' because Taiwan-U.S. relations form the backbone of Taiwan's foreign policy, " Chou said.

The two countries had hoped to resume negotiations on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), an official framework for handling Taiwan-U.S. trade and economic issues, in January. The talks had been suspended since 2007 mainly because of the beef controversy.

Washington decided to postpone the talks again when Taiwan blocked some shipments of U.S. beef after finding the meat contained residues of ractopamine, an additive that promotes leanness in meat. Ractopamine is banned in Taiwan.

The beef dispute has caused other issues to be put on hold, KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-ming said, such as an extradition agreement and a visa-waiver program.

While the U.S. and the MOFA have said the trade dispute and the TIFA talks are separate from these other programs, the beef controversy does hinder bilateral exchange on many fronts, Shuai said.

Shuai added that diplomacy "is an art of give and take" and that it is not worth sacrificing other potential agreements, such as the visa-waiver program and arms sales, over beef imports. He urged the government to resolve the beef dispute quickly.

Tsai Huang-liang, a legislator of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) , disagreed, saying that the U.S. was "immoral" in using political tools to bully its way into economic gains and that Taiwan needs to protect the health of its nationals.

Meanwhile, in response to questions from the press, Foreign Minister Timothy C.T. Yang said the Taiwan government did establish an inter-agency task force under the Executive Yuan to tackle the issue.

Yang refuted the U.S. claim that Taiwan had violated the beef protocol signed in October 2009, saying that both sides had agreed to respect each other's domestic law.

Yang said Taiwan's position has always been to wait for the conclusion of a meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission in July before reconsidering the issue. The Codex Alimentarius Commission is a United Nations-based body that develops international standards for food, and is expected to set a level for ractopamine at its July meeting.

"At the end of the day, if both sides recognized there's been a dispute, it would further justify the necessity of a bilateral negotiation to smooth things out, " Yang said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ly

Taiwanese, Chinese expats demand social order in Belize

Taipei, April 13 (CNA) Taiwanese and Chinese communities have taken to the streets in Belize to demand for law enforcement and social order following the murder of two Chinese businesswomen in the Central American country, a Taiwan official said Wednesday.

The expat communities joined forces and staged a protest and a nationwide shutdown of all Chinese-owned and operated stores for two days after the murders, Lin Cheng-hui, deputy director-general of the Department of Central and South American Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), said in an interpellation session of the Legislative Yuan.

Lin told opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Huang-liang, who had mistakenly asked whether the MOFA had learned of the murder cases of "two Taiwanese businessmen, " that the victims were Chinese.

Yan Ying Chen, a 32-year-old naturalized Belizean, and Fei Lan Wu, a 37-year-old Chinese, were shot to death inside their shops by burglars at Belize City, the country's largest city, on April 2.

Lin said a Taiwanese businessman was also killed in a similar burglary case several months ago and that widespread homicides had prompted the Belize Chinese Association and Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce to stage a protest between April 4-5 demanding that the Belizean government improve social order.

The Taiwan Embassy in Belize has also sent representatives to meet with the prime minister of Belize to express concerns on public security, Lin said. Belize is one of 23 countries with which Taiwan has official diplomatic ties.

Lin said he believes the murders were random acts of violence, rather than crimes directed intentionally at people of Chinese ethnicity.

According to Belizean media, arrests have been made in both cases. Belizean media also reported that 38 people have been murdered so far this year in Belize, eight more than in the same period last year. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ly

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Beef issues affect U.S.-Taiwan free trade talks: U.S. official

Taipei, April 12 (CNA) The lingering beef dispute was why Taiwan has been unable to hold a new round of high-level trade talks with the United States and why it has lost congressional support for the negotiation, according to a U.S. official Tuesday.

Taiwan has failed to implement a beef protocol it signed with the U.S. in October 2009 and has enforced "unscientific restrictions" with its partial ban on U.S. beef, said Rick Ruzicka, director for Trade and Commercial Programs at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).

Ruzicka made the comments at a seminar held in Washington to discuss "Taiwan's Future in the Asian Economic Order", which aimed to examine, among other things, whether trade agreements are essential to Taiwan's integration into the region.

The practice has complicated the bilateral relations and has sent confusing information to Taiwanese consumers, he said, adding that the measure has also caused Taiwan's credibility as a responsible trade partner to be questioned.

The AIT official said the U.S. Congress has expressed serious concerns to the practice as senior members on Agricultural Committee in both the Senate and the House of Representatives withdrawing their support to a new round of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Joint Council meeting between the two countries.

The TIFA is an official framework for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade and economic issues in the absence of diplomatic ties. TIFA talks have been suspended since 2007 mainly because of a controversy over beef imports from the U.S.

The two countries had hoped to resume the suspended negotiations in the last week of January.

Washington decided to postpone the talks, however, when Taiwan blocked some shipments of U.S. beef after finding that they contained residues of ractopamine, an animal feed additive banned in Taiwan that promotes leanness.

The U.S. has shown strong support for Taiwan's participation in international organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum but Taiwan also has to display its willingness to be a responsible member of the international trade community, Ruzicka said.

Speaking at the same seminar, Jay Eizenstat, a legal consultant of Miller and Chevalier law firm, said the United States should not suspend trade negotiations because of disputes over beef, which represents only a minimal part of bilateral trade volume.

In Taipei, AIT spokesman Chris Kavanagh reiterated the same position of the U.S. government, saying that Washington "does not think the current environment is conducive to holding productive high-level discussions."

He urged Taiwan to review the letter written to President Ma Ying-jeou by four Senators and Congressmen, including Max Baucus, Orrin Hatch, Dave Camp and Sander Levin on February 17 to better understand the U.S. position on the matter.

Bruce Linghu, Director-General of the Department of North American Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) , said the United States has always made clear that the beef dispute and the TIFA talks are separate issues.

And it's not up to the MOFA to make the final decision on the matter, because ractopamine has been banned by the Council of Agriculture and the dispute could not be resolved until the ban is lifted. (By Jorge Liu and Chris Wang) enditem/jc

Monday, April 11, 2011

Japanese expats express gratitude for Taiwan's post-quake support

Taipei, April 11 (CNA) Representatives of the Japanese expatriate community held a press conference Monday in which they expressed gratitude to the people of Taiwan for their support for Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

"Japanese nationals living in Taiwan have gained inspiration from the support offered by Taiwanese people and we are deeply touched by the heartwarming care of the people here, " said Tadashi Imai, Japan's representative to Taiwan.

Hours before Imai's speech, the Japanese government also wrote to the Taiwan government to express thanks to the Taiwanese people for their generous donations.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan's government and private sector have already raised nearly NT$4.4 billion (US$151.72 million) in cash for post-disaster relief programs in Japan and have delivered 582 tons of relief goods to the country.

However, it is the "special bonding" between the people of the two countries that has touched Imai, who noted that a bouquet was placed in front of his office March 14 by an anonymous person who left a note wishing "peace and wellbeing for the people of Japan."

"It is no exaggeration to say that my soul was thrilled by the flowers and the message, " he said, adding that he has never seen such a unique friendship and bonding between two countries in his 40-year diplomatic career, during which he has served in many parts of the world.

Hundreds of posters and notes sent by local students and residents to the Interchange Association, Japan (IAJ) -- Japan's representative office in Taiwan in the absence of bilateral diplomatic ties, were also displayed at the press conference, co-organized by the IAJ, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) and the Japanese Association in Taiwan (JAT).

JAT Chairman Koichiro Kusano said the Taiwan people's warmth and hospitality is why Japanese expats "always feel at home" in Taiwan.

They have also shown great confidence in Japan, according to JCCI Acting President Masashi Kyota, who noted that the majority of Taiwanese companies -- despite suffering from the impact of disrupted supply chain issues -- have pledged to maintain cooperation with their Japanese partners despite the current difficulties. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Tseng tied for second in first women's golf major of the year

Taipei, April 2 (CNA) Defending champion and world No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan shot a 68 Saturday Taiwan time to move into a tie for second after the second round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, three shots behind leader Stacy Lewis of the United States.

Tseng, who opened the year's first major tied for 10th with an opening round 70 a day earlier, fired four birdies in her first five holes and ended the day with a two-round total of 6-under 138 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.

She was tied for second with 2009 Kraft Nabisco champion Brittany Lincicome and Jane Park, both of the U.S.

American Morgan Pressel and South Korea Amy Yang were tied for fifth, another shot back.

Tseng, who became the world's top player for the first time in her career earlier this year, said after her round that she did not feel any pressure coming into the tournament and was not thinking too much about defending her title.

"I told myself I try my best every shot and focus on what I can do and what I can control and always think positive, " she said.

If Tseng is not feeling much pressure, it may be because her main goal this year is to win the U.S. Open, the only Grand Slam event she has not won in her young career.

She won the LPGA Championship in 2008 and the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the British Open last year.

Life after winning a major has been a lot harder, she said, because "you have more interviews, more people following, " and she has also had a lot more expectations for herself.

But she has grown more comfortable in the role this year, because she has become more accustomed to being the target of people's attention.

"This year I really enjoy what I'm doing, " she said. "I'm having so much fun. I enjoy playing the Pro Am and I enjoy the tournament. So I don't feel any expectations. I feel like I've been here for a long time."

As to her strategy for the final two rounds, she said it was fairly simple: "keep smiling and have fun." (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Dacin, Taiwan Beer to meet in Taiwan pro basketball finals

Taipei, April 2 (CNA) Dacin Tigers will meet Taiwan Beer in Taiwan's 2011 Super Basketball League (SBL) Finals after eliminating Pure Youth Construction 4-1 in the best-of-seven first round playoffs Friday.

The best-of-seven Finals will be played from April 8-17 at Hsinjhuang Stadium in New Taipei City.

The two teams will meet in the finals for the third time after splitting the previous two meetings, with Taiwan Beer defeating Dacin 4-2 in 2007 and Dacin winning 4-3 in 2009.

Led by star forward Tien Lei and import Alexus Foyle from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Tigers made the playoffs as the No. 3 seed after a 17-13 regular season and upset the No. 2 seed Pure Youth in five games.

Dacin will be looking for redemption after losing to Yulon Luxgen 4-2 in the title series last year.

Taiwan Beer, which led the seven-team league in the regular season with 22 wins and 8 losses, swept the defending champion Yulon 4-0 in the first round and was able to enjoy an 11-day rest before Game 1 of the Finals.

The regular season champion, which won back-to-back titles in 2007-2008, advanced to the finals for the first time in two years. It features arguably the best lineup in the league which includes American forward Emmanuel Jones and local players Wu Tai-hao and Yang Ching-min.

The SBL, the top tier basketball competition in Taiwan, was established in 2003. Yulon won four titles in the league's first seven years. (By Chris Wang) Enditem/cs

Friday, April 01, 2011

Taiwan to step up cooperation with EBRD: foreign ministry

Taipei, April 1 (CNA) Thomas Mirow, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) , will visit Taiwan next week to forge closer links between the bank and Taiwan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Friday.

Mirow's visit April 5-7 will also mark the 20th anniversary of Taiwan's cooperation with the EBRD, which is owned by 61 countries and two inter-governmental institutions and supports development in countries from central Europe to central Asia, the MOFA said in a press release.

Mirow, who will be visiting Taiwan for the first time, is scheduled to meet with Vice President Vincent Siew, Vice Premier Sean Chen, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang, Central Bank Governor Perng Fai-nan, Finance Minister Lee Sush-der and other high-ranking members of government.

Mirow and Yang will sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for Taiwan to contribute about US$4 million to the replenishment of the EBRD technical cooperation fund, the MOFA said.

Mirow will also sign an MOU with Taiwan's International Cooperation Development Fund (ICDF) for the ICDF to put US$80 million into the EBRD Green Energy Special Fund, the ministry said.

"This is another fine example of the cooperation between the EBRD and Taiwan and I very much look forward to deepening our relationship during my visit," Mirow said.

Taiwan has been cooperating with the EBRD since the bank was established in 1991, contributing to the EBRD Balkan Region Special Fund, the Mongolia Cooperation Fund, the Early Transition Countries Fund and the Sustainable Energy Initiative.

Taiwanese companies have also increased their activities in the EBRD region in recent years, in areas such as helping with the establishment of an electronic ticket system for the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and holding seminars on mass transportation for officials from Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia and Romania, according to the MOFA. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc