Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-02-07 02:32 PM
Premier Jiang Yi-huah approved the resignation of Cheng Li-wun as Cabinet spokeswoman and picked Fair Trade Commission Vice Chairman Sun Lih-chyun, 53, as her successor.
Media reports had speculated for days that King, one of President Ma Ying-jeou’s closest confidants for 15 years, would return to Taiwan to head the NSC.
His predecessor in the function, Jason Yuan, will be made senior presidential adviser, reports said. Presidential sources credited him with sharp improvements in relations with Washington, D.C., including the introduction of a visa waiver for Taiwanese travelers and the resumption of trade talks.
King first came to prominence as a key campaign adviser when Ma launched his first bid for mayor of Taipei City in 1998. As Ma moved on to lead the ruling Kuomintang and was elected president, King also served as the party’s secretary-general for a while.
The opposition Democratic Progressive Party interpreted his sudden return to Taiwan as a move to prepare for the November 29 local elections, which look bad for the KMT amid the poor state of the economy.
The DPP named King’s limited diplomatic and defense experience after barely more than a year in Washington since December 2012 as the main reason why it believed his new appointment was linked to domestic politics. The Ma confidant’s early removal had left him without any obvious achievements and could prove detrimental to the long-term stability of Taiwan-US relations, the DPP said.
Joseph Wu, the opposition party’s top policy chief and US representative, said King’s departure from Washington came at a most inconvenient time. US Secretary of State John Kerry was planning to visit Asia, and possibly China, next month, while President Barack Obama would follow in April. There were major issues in the Taiwan-US relationship which would need to be handled, Wu said.
The Presidential Office denied the opposition allegations about the motives for King’s return, saying he would not be involved in domestic electoral campaigns and would stay above party politics.
Taiwan’s representative in London, Shen, a veteran diplomat, would be transferred to Washington, D.C. to take care of relations with the country’s most important friend. The US government reportedly already agreed with his appointment. It was not immediately clear whom Taiwan would now send to take over Shen’s posting in the United Kingdom.
His main task in Washington would be to promote the case for Taiwanese membership of the Trans Pacific Partnership, reports said. Shen served as deputy representative to the US, envoy to the European Union and Belgium, and vice minister of foreign affairs.
The Ma Administration has made the signing of international trade agreements and the entry into regional economic associations such as the TPP a top priority.
In a separate development, the Executive Yuan announced a limited reshuffle at a news conference at 3 p.m. The top economic officials, such as Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch and Finance Minister Chang Sheng-ford, remained in place as expected.
Cabinet spokeswoman Cheng had reportedly tendered her resignation to leave for a show about international politics and finance at cable station TVBS, the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported. She started her political career in the DPP.
Minister without Portfolio Huang Kuang-nan was replaced by a deputy secretary general at the Cabinet, Chien Tai-lang, but the former was quoted by the Apple Daily as saying he only knew about his departure by reading a report online. Chien, 67, has been mentioned in the media as a potential KMT candidate for Pingtung County magistrate in the November elections. His new government position would allow him more time to campaign, according to the Apple Daily.
In the latest round of changes to the administrative government structure, the Council of Labor Affairs will be officially upgraded to become the Ministry of Labor next month, but its head, Pan Shih-wei, will remain in place, reports said.