Sat, 04 Jan 2003

Govt plays down calls for apology to Taiwan

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia declined on Friday to apologize to Taiwan for abruptly banning Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian from visiting last month, saying there was no official request for an apology.

Foreign ministry spokesman Marty M. Natalegawa said the government had not received an official request for an apology, adding that Indonesia did not have diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

"On the issue of Taiwan there is nothing new. That means our position is already clear, and although we have heard of calls for us to apologize we feel this problem need not be prolonged," Marty said as quoted by on Friday.

Taiwanese government officials demanded Indonesia apologize "properly" for refusing to allow the visit by Chen.

The president was due to visit Indonesia last month but a media leak prompted a protest from China, leading to a last- minute cancellation by the Indonesian side.

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory and Indonesia's One China policy bars Jakarta from recognizing the Taipei government.

Economic ties with Taiwan, however, have flourished, with Taiwan investment here amounting to some US$17 billion and with thousands of Indonesians working on the island.

The planned visit by President Chen reportedly was arranged by the husband of President Megawati Soekarnoputri, Taufik Kiemas.

Taufik has no official capacity other than as a member of the House of Representatives. As a businessman, however, he often promotes Indonesian business interests abroad, including in China.

Taiwan Vice President Lu earlier said Indonesia had repeatedly apologized in private for the failed visit, but added she wanted Indonesia to apologize "properly".

Taiwanese parliamentarians also urged their government to halt all investment in Indonesia for what they regarded as the unfriendly rejection of Chen's visit by Indonesia.

Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda, however, played down the economic threat, saying business relationships were based on profit only.

Although the Indonesian government does not accept official visits from Taiwan, it has been open in the past to so-called "vacation diplomacy".

In August last year, Lu traveled as a tourist to Bali but reportedly met with two Indonesian ministers and executives of the country's second largest political party, Golkar, in Jakarta on her way back home.

China protested to Jakarta for allowing Lu to visit the country.