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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Yokwe Online, June 20) - Marshall Islands Parliament Speaker Litokwa Tomeing met with Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, for wide-ranging talks at the Republic of China's Presidential Office in Taipei last week.

Chen took the opportunity, on June 16, to express his gratitude for Tomeing's efforts in promoting relations between the two countries over the years, reported ROC government news.

In the month since President Chen's visit to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) during his Pacific tour, goodwill between the two nations has been challenged. A report that members of RMI's ruling party accepted money from the People's Republic of China broke the week before Chen's arrival, and the allegations have persisted.

Early in June, a Taiwan volunteer worker residing in the Marshall Island capital of Majuro, was viciously attacked by a Marshallese man.

The arrival in May of a floating dry-dock, from a Taiwan company, was postponed due to local opposition and demands for an environmental study.

According to a piece appearing in the June 3 edition of the Marshall Islands' Journal, reportedly written by Yong Y. Ji, a RMI ambassador and an associate of the RMI President Kessai Note, "The relationship with the Taiwan government has been difficult" since the bribery charges surfaced.

President Note, meanwhile, reiterated the Marshalls' support of Taiwan.

"The RMI government has not received any money from the People's Republic of China (PRC) and any loans or other money individuals may have received is a personal matter that does not involve the RMI government," the President told the nation's parliament.

The "people" Note mentions are elected officials, some senators of the President's party, the UDP (United Democratic Party), who have allegedly accepted checks since last December in exchange for considering a return to diplomatic ties with China (PRC).

Although the "bribery" accusations have lingered, and the opposition party has called for an investigation into the matter, there has not been any official or government reaction to the charges.

The RMI government was quick to respond to the Taiwan Ambassador's call for action in the case of the Taiwanese attack victim, however. In a few days, there was an arrest and "unusually prompt filing" of criminal charges against the accused Marshallese of attempted first-degree murder.

Taiwan has contributed millions of dollars in aid to the Marshalls and developed a close-working relationship with the RMI government since diplomatic ties were established in 1998. Recently, Taiwan signed an agreement with the RMI to contribute US$40 million over 20 years to the RMI's trust fund.

June 21, 2005

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