The China Post staff
Top government officials and leaders of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party yesterday all denied reports that the U.S. is exerting pressure to force Taiwan to continue construction of the controversial nuclear power plant. The lingering controversy over the fourth nuclear power plant has already prompted the resignation of former Premier Tang Fei after Economics Minister Lin Hsin-yi recommended scrapping the US$5.6 billion project when the DPP-led government decided to stick to its anti-nuclear policy.
Both the United Daily News (UDN) and the China Times — the two mass circulation daily papers — reported yesterday that the U.S. is mounting a lobbying effort and has put pressure on Taiwan’s new government to reverse a decision to call off the project. General Electric of the U.S. is the key contractor to supply nuclear power reactors for the power plant. Both the UDN and the China Times reported that American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) officials are working on a position statement to be addressed to President Chen Shui-bian, with the aim of dissuading Taiwan from abandoning nuclear power.
Chen Che-nan, deputy presidential secretary general, said the Presidential Office has received no such information. Premier Chang Chun-hsiung also said the Executive Yuan (Cabinet) has so far received no relevant information. He said there is also no timetable set for the government to either continue or scrap the project, which is already more than 30 percent complete.
Chang said he learned of the reported American pressure only after reading the press reports. DPP Chairman Frank Hsieh, who is concurrently mayor of Kaohsiung, said he knew nothing about the American plan to send representatives to meet senior Taiwanese officials on the issue. He also felt no pressure from the American side. Commercial contract
But, Hsieh said, even if the U.S. does send officials to Taiwan, the purpose of the trip should be related to the commercial contract signed between GE and Taiwan’s state-run Taiwan Power Co., rather than lobbying for the project’s continuation. He said the talks could focus either on how the two sides should enforce the contract according to earlier agreements or the relevant legal problems when the new plant construction is suspended. Hsieh stressed that the rights and interests of people of Taiwan should be top considerations concerning final decision on the issue, without outside intervention.
DPP Secretary General Wu Nai-jen added that the U.S. has so far not yet expressed any position or views that may prompt the DPP to reverse its anti-nuclear stance. But he said he does not rule out communications and exchanging views on the issue with the U.S. DPP Legislator Lee Ying-yuan, who has been tipped to become Taiwan’s deputy representative to the U.S., said the fourth nuclear power plant is a commercial issue and Washington should respect Taiwan’s freedom of decision on its internal affairs. He also said the DPP will not alter its anti-nuclear position, regardless of Washington’s concerns about Taiwan’s decision to halt the project. U.S. concern Richard Bush, chairman of the Washington-based AIT, dismissed in Washington Saturday as “irrelevant” reports from Taipei that Washington was lobbying Taiwan to continue the construction of the new power plant. Bush noted that the U.S. State Department has already issued a