Chinese pressure blocks Taiwan V-P’s Jakarta visit

Annette Lu is left high and dry in Bali as Indonesian officials deny knowledge of her visit for talks.

Taiwan’s Vice-President Annette Lu was cooling her heels in Bali yesterday after China intervened and blocked a planned visit to Jakarta for high-level talks.

Wary of damaging growing economic ties with Beijing, Indonesia also distanced itself from the fracas over Ms Lu, saying it adhered to a ‘One China’ policy and regarded Taiwan as an integral part of China.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry said it knew nothing about her visit and was adamant that no talks had been scheduled with government leaders or officials.

Ms Lu’s trip had ‘not been arranged in any way’ by Jakarta.

‘We do not know anything about this visit and will not do anything that puts at risk our relations with China,’ a ministry spokesman told The Straits Times.

Earlier, Mr Derek Hsu, a spokesman for Taiwan’s Economic Office in Jakarta, told The Straits Times that Taipei was forced to ‘reschedule’ Ms Lu’s agenda following Indonesia’s reported refusal to let her visit the capital.

Indonesia’s decision stemmed from ‘a protest’ by the Chinese Embassy, he said.

Mr Hsu said Ms Lu had planned to hold a series of meetings with several senior officials in Jakarta.

But as Indonesia refused to sanction a visit to the capital, Ms Lu made alternative arrangements for possible meetings in
Bali, he said.

But he refused to say whom she would be meeting during the course of her ‘vacation diplomacy’.

Indonesia’s denial of involvement in any aspect of the trip was not unexpected, given that links with China have strengthened over the last few years, and Jakarta would be especially concerned about losing potentially huge investments.

Mr Taufik Kiemas, husband of Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, lobbied hard for a liquefied natural gas deal andlast year headed a high-level delegation to China for talks with Premier Zhu Rongji.

Last week, China’s offshore oil and gas producer, CNOOC Ltd, announced that Indonesia had won a multi-billion dollar contract to supply a terminal in Fujian province with liquefied natural gas from the eastern Tangguh field.

Political analyst Soedjati Djiwandono said Jakarta would be careful ‘not to offend Chinese sensitivities’.

But Indonesia also saw value in cultivating ties with Taiwan, he said, as the government ‘is trying hard to diversify its links to encourage more countries to invest in Indonesia’.

While there are no formal ties, Indonesia has close trade links with Taiwan, which is one of the biggest markets for its oil and natural gas.

Taiwanese businesses have also invested billions in Indonesia, particularly in garment and shoe factories.

But Dr Soedjati said that if Taiwan intended to use Ms Lu’s trip to Indonesia as another signal of its independence, then it was an unwise move.

‘It put the Indonesian government in a very difficult spot and forced it to choose China over Taiwan,’ he said.

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