Financial Times

Hsieh seeks to mend Taiwan-US ties

By Kathrin Hille in Taipei
Published: July 24 2007

Frank Hsieh, the presidential candidate of Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive party, has pledged to set aside controversial ideological issues such as his party's push for formal independence in a bid to improve relations with Washington.

His remarks appear designed to send a reassuring signal to US officials ahead of meetings in Washington this week during which Mr Hsieh is to present his views on relations with mainland China and how to mend ties with the US.

In aFinancial Times interview, Mr Hsieh said he believed Taiwan's next leader should concentrate on a near-term agenda rather than what he called a "final goal".

"One should clearly distinguish between an election platform with campaign issues, a government agenda for a four-year presidential term and a final goal," he said late on Sunday. "These things have been mixed up with each other. I would not do that. I would not take the final goal and make it an election issue all the time."

Chen Shui-bian, whose term as president ends in May 2008, has been criticised for highlighting moves towards independence ahead of next year's elections to garner votes for the DPP. Most recently, he pledged to hold a referendum to gather support for a push for Taiwan's membership in the UN under its own name.

Mr Hsieh supports the DPP's long-term goal of formal independence for Taiwan. But he has been eager to position himself as a more pragmatic successor to the more strident Mr Chen.

The DPP's traditional pro-independence support base has raised pressure on Mr Hsieh to commit to taking steps towards formal independence. The party leadership has proposed a resolution which would call for making Taiwan a "normal country" through moves such as changing the constitution and the national moniker. But Mr Hsieh has resisted.

He said his top priorities if elected president were winning a majority in parliament, restarting dialogue with China and mending ties with the US.