FM Chen regrets his vulgar criticism of Singapore gov’t

The China Post staff

Foreign Minister Chen Tan Sun, beleaguered for using vulgar language in criticizing Singapore, regretted his “improper wording,” said a Foreign Ministry spokesman. Venting his anger towards Singapore’s warnings against Taiwan’s independence, Chen on Monday used Taiwanese slang when describing the city state as a piece of “snot” who sought favors by “embracing China’s balls.” Singapore had yet to make any public response to his rhetoric, but Chen came under fire from both the opposition lawmakers and fellows in his own camp. Even Cabinet spokesman Chen Chi-mai admitted the minister made a bad choice of words. Presidential Secretary General Su Tseng-chang, commenting on the blunder, said Taiwan’s diplomatic difficulties call for friendly interactions with other countries, and “personal emotions” should be set aside.

“Minister Chen thinks that because the improper wording has caused a feeling of uneasiness in society, he offers his sincere apology,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Michel Lu was cited by the Central News Agency as saying.

Lu revealed the ministry explained to Singapore right after Chen’s remarks, and the city state’s government said they could understand it. “Taiwan-Singapore relations remain very good,” the spokesman was cited as saying.

Singapore has repeatedly made public warnings against Taiwan going independent after its Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made a low-key trip to the island in the summer. Returning to Singapore, Lee said Taiwan’s leaders refused to recognize the danger of the independence move, pushing the island to the verge of war with China. Singaporean Foreign Minister George Yeo on Friday repeated Lee’s warnings in his address to the U.N. Assembly. Cabinet spokesman Chen Chi-mai said the foreign minister, in the face of Taiwan’s diplomatic bottleneck, must have been more frustrated than anyone else, venting his anger towards Singapore’s recent spate of “unfriendly” warnings. “But his diction was really bad,” said the spokesman.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman, Lu, explained away the bad choice of words by saying the minister’s talks came during a meeting with “townsfolk” from Taichung. Lu said the minister wanted to use a “vernacular” to better explain Taiwan’s diplomatic difficulties. “His talks concerning Singapore did not contain any malice,” said Lu. But former Foreign Minister John Chang — an incumbent legislator from the opposition Kuomintang — said Chen should have used much more indirect language to express his dissatisfaction towards Singapore. Please see VULGAR on page

Chang said Chen should go to the ministry’s training center to learn the basics of diplomatic work. KMT Legislator Sun Kuo-hua demanded the government apologize to Singapore as quickly as possible for Chen’s emotional talks. He pointed out many of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies were even smaller than Singapore, and Chen’s comments would only come back to hurt Taiwan itself. Legislator Sun Ta-chien, of the People First Party, said it was “very vulgar” of Chen to cite the Taiwanese slang. He said Chen’s reaction demonstrated that Singapore’s warnings against independence “hurt” the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

DPP whip, Legislator Tsai Huang-liang, said the party was also upset about Singapore’s warnings, and he could understand the foreign minister’s feelings. But he said the foreign minister’s talk should have been more polished. Legislator Cheng Chen-lung, whip of the Taiwan Solidarity Union, said although the minister should have used more refined language, Singapore was the last country to be allowed to criticize Taiwan. In contrast with the democratic Taiwan, the city state maintains an authoritarian rule where even the prime minister’s post can be succeeded, he said. Singapore maintains friendly ties with both sides of the Taiwan Strait, although it recognizes Beijing as the only legitimate ruler of all China.

In 1993, envoys from Taipei and Beijing held ice-breaking talks in Singapore.