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ROC Central News Agency

2005-03-22 18:00:00

    Taipei, March 22 (CNA) Premier Frank Hsieh said Tuesday there is still room for the Ministry of National Defense to improve its visit arrangement for the ROC Navy's "Fleet of Friendship" after the team was recently barred from making a port call in Singapore due to pressure from China.

    Hsieh told lawmakers during a legislative interpellation session that the ministry should have anticipated the many problems that were likely to occur when the fleet was to visit a country with no diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

    Without a definite commitment from the destination country, it would have been better for the fleet to avoid the country in the first place, Hsieh said.

    A local daily reported Tuesday that because of pressure from Beijing, Singapore decided without prior notice to prohibit the fleet from berthing when the vessels arrived at the city-state for refueling early this month. Singapore is the first stop on the itinerary of the fleet's round-the-world cruise this year.

    The fleet was later allowed to anchor offshore, according to the report.

    Minister of National Defense Lee Jye said Taiwan and Singapore had a secret agreement to allow a port call by the fleet but a media leak of the arrangement put Singapore under heavy pressure.

    Lee promised no similar incidents would occur during the rest of the fleet's voyage because all the remaining destinations are diplomatic allies of Taiwan.

    Minister of Foreign Affairs Tan Sun Chen noted that Singapore is very mindful of China's reaction, which he said is evident in the remarks made by Singapore's national leaders, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

    Chen said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has relayed the government's position on the matter to Singapore through diplomatic means.

    Meanwhile, foreign ministry spokesman Michel Lu said the ministry will continue its efforts to expand the country's participation in the international community despite Beijing's continued suppression.

(By Y.F. Low)


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