Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bad, bad timing on visa waiver announcement

Both the DPP and the KMT deserve praise for the achievement. But the US timed its announcement in a way that invites exploitation by the KMT ahead of crucial elections

Some great news came Taiwan’s way on Thursday when the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) announced that Taiwan had been put on the candidate list for the US’ visa-waiver program, taking the nation another step closer to sealing the coveted agreement.

However welcome the news may have been, the timing could hardly have been worse, coming as it did a mere three weeks before the closely fought presidential election. Washington’s decision to make the announcement when it did can be explained in two ways: either is it naive and unaware of the political uses that could be made of the news or, despite its professions to the contrary, it is taking sides in Taiwan’s elections. Either way, this does not reflect too well on Washington’s ability to remain neutral in the electoral affairs of a democratic ally.

Reporters had hardly made their way back from the AIT when Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tung Kuoyu (董國猷) was heard hailing the announcement as reflecting Washington’s high degree of confidence in President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). For his part, KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) compared the nomination to a “cardiac stimulant” that gave Ma an advantage over Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in the election.

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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