Jul 13, 2004

Taiwan: China disappointed with Singapore Official Visit to Taipei

Singapore moved to calm China over a visit by Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Taiwan, saying it was a private and unofficial trip
SINGAPORE : Singapore moved to calm China over a visit by Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Taiwan, saying it was a private and unofficial trip to meet friends.

Following an angry reaction from Beijing to the visit, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement that also emphasised Singapore's support for the "One China" policy and its opposition to Taiwanese independence.

"Lee is making a private and unofficial visit to Taiwan to meet with friends. He last visited them in 1992," the statement said.

"Singapore has consistently maintained a 'One China' policy. We do not support independence for Taiwan. This is our fundamental position.

"DPM Lee's private visit does not in any way change this policy, nor does it represent any challenge to China's sovereignty or territorial integrity."

Lee's visit comes at a particularly sensitive time as he is due to take over from Goh Chok Tong as prime minister this year. Goh has said he will announce the handover date sometime over the next few weeks.

China reacted angrily on Sunday to the trip, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue expressing "strong dissatisfaction" and "protest".

"The Singaporean side should take full responsibility for results from the event," Xinhua quoted Zhang as saying.

Beijing opposes any official foreign visit to Taiwan, which it regards as part of its territory waiting to be reunified by force if necessary. The two sides split at the end of a civil war in 1949.

In its statement, Singapore's foreign ministry said it "values our close and extensive bilateral relations with China".

"It would be regrettable if bilateral relations were to be affected by this private visit."

Taiwanese television footage showed Su Chen-chang, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's chief secretary, welcoming Lee when he arrived at the island's Chiang Kai-shek airport on Saturday night.

Taiwan's United Daily News said Lee would stay for three days and dine with Chen on Monday.

The paper said the Taiwanese government attached great importance to the trip, adding it would be difficult for him to visit the island after he became prime minister.

Lee is the son of Singapore's still-powerful founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, who has remained in Cabinet as Senior Minister since handing over power to Goh in 1990.

Although Singapore does not officially recognise Taipei, the elder Lee maintains close ties with Chen and has visited Taiwan twice over the past four years.

Singapore's foreign ministry was unavailable to respond immediately on Monday to queries as to how long the younger Lee will be in Singapore, or his agenda there.

Source: Channel News Asia