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RUMOR THAT MARSHALL ISLANDS WILL CUT TAIWAN RELATIONS "PREMATURE": SENATOR JACKLICK

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (December 26, 1999 – Orientation Oceania)---Speculation that the Marshall Islands' new ruling party plans to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan is "premature," a party spokesman said.

"Any discussion of the China-Taiwan relationship at this stage is premature," said Senator Alvin Jacklick of the United Democratic Party, which won a majority in national elections last month.

There had been speculation the party planned to revert diplomatic relations to Beijing if it formed a government when parliament convenes next week.

"If and when the issue (of Taiwan) arises, the public can rest assured that such discussions will be open and any decision, one way or the other, will be made after careful review and evaluation of all relevant factors," he said. "It is not an issue that will be decided overnight."

The Majuro Chamber of Commerce late last week announced it was sending letters to all 33 members of the Nitijela (parliament) urging them to support the country's one-year-old relations with Taiwan.

"There is no doubt that Taiwan has been a great friend to us," said Chamber President Kirtley Pinho. "We can’t afford to change this."

Taiwan is currently funding a new local government headquarters in Majuro, the rebuilding of Majuro's international airport and a hangar facility, as well as road and causeway paving. It has also provided 2 million dollars to Air Marshall Islands, $500,000 for trash collection equipment, and provided sports coaches and medical personnel.

But Jacklick said there were more important issues than Taiwan.

"The critical question is the state of finances of the government," he said, referring to an aborted parliament session last October that ended without the passage of a fiscal 2000 budget.

Interim authority for operating the government expires at midnight December 31, raising questions about how quickly a new government could introduce and pass a budget to keep functioning.

The parliament is scheduled to meet on January 3 to elect a new president who is expected to come from the ranks of the UDP.

The UDP appears to have at least the minimum 17 members it needs to create a new government, the first time in 20 years the republic will be ruled by an opposition-turned-government party.

Orientation Oceania

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