President Chen Shui-bian calls it his personal “secret diplomacy.”The Western press calls it checkbook diplomacy.Most of the people in Taiwan call it a fool’s diplomacy.Well, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was truly fooled this time.Or is James Huang, the foreign minister, or his not-so-direct boss Chiou I-jen, currently the vice premier until May 20, trying to fool us the people?
Let’s piece together some already known facts about this exemplary case of a fool’s diplomacy.
A man, who Chiou said was introduced to him by a “very trustworthy friend,” claimed in 2006 diplomatic relations between Taiwan and Papua New Guinea could be bought for US$30 million.This man, Chin Chi-ju, used to be a land developer turned vice chairman of the once government-owned BES Engineering Corporation.He has been indicted for graft.
Chin then told Chiou he needed a friend, Wu Si-tsai, to broker the purchase of a diplomatic ally.Chiou believed them.So he told James Huang to pay them.
Huang did as he was told right away.The money was remitted to the private joint account Chin and Wu have opened in a Singapore bank. The sum transmitted was US$29.8 million, because they claimed they had already spent US$200,000 in preparation for making the deal.
Early in 2007, however, Huang knew it wasn’t possible for the two brokers to get Port Moresby to switch diplomatic recognition to Taipei from Beijing.The foreign ministry has since tried to get the money back in vain.The Waichiaopu even assigned an escort to go with Chin to Singapore to claim the money.But Chin managed to shake off his tail.Nobody knows where he is now. On the other hand, Huang seems to have completely forgotten Papua New Guinea established diplomatic relations with Taiwan for only three days in 1999.
The case came to light early last week when it was reported in Singapore, although the foreign ministry had requested a crimple investigation by public prosecutors in Taipei a month or so before.Wu is under investigation but Chin cannot be subpoenaed.Singapore’s appellate court has been asked to freeze their joint bank account.Probably, it is too late to get any money back.The chances are that the duo has already withdrawn all the money.
These are the facts we know.What we do not know is who fools whom.
So far as the foreign minister is concerned, the people are fooled by the two self-styled diplomatic brokers.James Huang professed his ministry was not at fault.In other words, the two liars, not Chiou I-jen, cheated the foreign ministry out of taxpayers’ money and Huang offered a public apology for that.
But Chiou refused to disclose who his “very trustworthy friend” was.Chiou certainly isn’t naïve and gullible.That friend had to be someone very powerful.Could it be President Chen?Maybe.Chen loves personal secret diplomacy.Remember he told public prosecutors in testimony for his own wife charged with borrowing invoices and receipts from friends and relatives to claim a NT$14.8 million reimbursement from a public fund under his control for the conduct of “affairs of state”?He testified he had spent most of the money refunded to the first lady for his personal secret diplomacy.She is standing trial for corruption.
As a matter of fact, it doesn’t matter who fools whom.What matters is to find out who is or are stupid enough to trust the liars with the money.