Tuesday, March 20, 2007

MAC's Wu to US, Lee to Canada

The media are awash with stories about the move of Taiwan's de facto ambassador to the US, David Lee, to Canada, to make way for Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Joseph Wu to take his place.

Following a report yesterday in the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper), Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) would replace David Lee (李大維) as the top representative to the US.

Wu is generally depicted as Chen's man:

Wu yesterday said he was confident he would be able to communicate the administration's intent to the US accurately, adding that his experience in handling cross-strait relations would be helpful in his new job.

"I think I am familiar with President Chen [Shui-bian's (陳水扁)] way of thinking, and I am able to interpret his ideas easily, precisely and directly," Wu said during a press conference yesterday afternoon.

"Cross-strait affairs have been the focal point of our diplomatic work, and having an understanding in this field is quite important when it comes to foreign affairs," Wu said.

Taiwan News reported the KMT protests over Wu's staunch pro-independence views:

On Sunday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) confirmed that Wu, who has never held a foreign post, will replace David Lee (李大維), a career diplomat trained under the Kuomintang era, as the country's top envoy to the United States. Lee is expected to succeed Thomas Chen as Taiwan's representative in Canada. Both men will start their new job sometime next month.

Soon after the announcement was made, pan-blue lawmakers criticized the reshuffle, saying the move is part of the Democratic Progressive Party's ploy to "greenify" top government officials before President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) term expires in May 2008.

At a press conference yesterday, a group of KMT lawmakers said Wu, who has never been shy about his staunch pro-Taiwan independence stance, will turn Taiwan's U.S. representative office in Washington into a "Taiwan Independence Lobbying Center."

"Wu's appointment is mainly to help justify the president's 'four wants and one no' doctrine to the United States," said Lwo Shih-hsiung, hinting that the United States is fully aware of the DPP's strategy, but still gave consent to Wu's appointment as a trade off for the legislature's approval on the U.S. arms procurement deal.

Despite never having served in a diplomatic post, Wu regularly visits the US to brief officials on Taiwan-China relations, and is well known and accepted by them. He speaks fluent English -- always important, since so many US Taiwan experts do not speak good Chinese or Taiwanese -- and has been interviewed by US media, including major television networks. David Lee, the outgoing representative, is one of the many KMTers working in high positions under the Chen Administration. Friends of mine within MOFA have been saying for months that the Administration wanted Lee replaced, and some of the more embarrassing incidents over the years in which Lee has been left unapprised of major events involving Taiwan and the US have been intentionally handled to make him look bad, they've said. Nevertheless, Lee is above all a consummate diplomatic professional, and it remains to be seen whether Taiwan will benefit from this appointment.

(crossposted from Taiwan Matters)

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