Taiwan arranges bilateral talks with leaders of 5 APEC countries

Foreign Minister David Lee answers questions at a legislative hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Lee said he could not reveal which leaders Taiwan's APEC representatives would meet out of respect for those countries wishes, but confirmed that the ministry has arranged bilateral talks with leaders of 5 APEC countries. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has arranged meetings between James Soong (宋楚瑜) and at least five APEC countries on the sidelines of the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) summit, Foreign Minister David Lee (李大維) said Wednesday.

However, Lee said at a legislative hearing he could not reveal which leaders Taiwan’s APEC representatives would meet out of respect for those countries wishes.

People First Party Chairman James Soong, Taiwan’s special envoy to the APEC summit, arrived in Da Nang, Vietnam, on Tuesday to attend the APEC meeting to be held from Nov. 10-11.

Soong said Monday at a news conference ahead of the delegation’s departure to Vietnam that Taiwan hopes to find a “natural way” to exchange views with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at the APEC summit.

Asked whether the ministry has arranged for Soong to meet with Xi during the APEC summit, Lee said meetings have been arranged between Soong and the leaders of at least five countries.

Although some countries are willing to make public such meetings, others are not and so the ministry will respect their wishes, Lee added.

He declined to confirm whether Soong will hold talks with Xi.

Meanwhile, Lee said the media should not speculate about the belated departure of Taiwan’s APEC delegation spokesman and chief adviser John Deng (鄧振中), whose visa to Vietnam was delayed because of administrative issues on the Vietnam side.

The visa delay had nothing to do with China’s suppression of Taiwan’s international space, Lee added.

Deng was unable to join Taiwan’s delegation on Tuesday’s flight as scheduled because he had not received a visa from Vietnam.

After consultations with Vietnam, Deng received a visa later Tuesday and departed for Da Nang Wednesday.

Due to Chinese objections, no Taiwan president has ever been invited to the APEC summit, a high profile gathering of leaders from 21 economies that include the United States, Japan, Russia and China. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) chose Soong as Taiwan’s envoy for the second consecutive year.

Taiwan is a self-ruling democratic island which separated from mainland China in 1949 but is considered by Beijing as part of its territory. 

By Yeh Su-ping and Evelyn Kao