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MOFA denies King returned to secure US official visit

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday that King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), Taiwan's de facto envoy to the U.S., had returned to handle a long-standing Taiwan-U.S. project, countering claims by local reports that King had returned to secure a high-ranking U.S. official's visit.

According to local reports, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy was originally scheduled to visit Taiwan; however, the U.S. government canceled the visit over dissatisfaction with the premature exposure of the trip in Taiwan.

Local reports claimed that the cancellation had nothing to do with mainland Chinese pressure.

If McCarthy had visited, she would have become the first U.S. cabinet-ranking official to come to Taiwan under the Obama administration, marking a significant development in Taiwan-U.S. ties.

According to unnamed sources, the U.S. had kept a tight lid on the planned visit to avoid unnecessary complications and had urged Taiwan to follow suit.

News of King's low-profile return to Taiwan was widely reported by local media outlets, several of which claimed that King had returned to arrange a U.S. official's visit.

MOFA spokeswoman Anna Kao (高安) said previously that King had returned for a Taiwan-U.S. diplomatic project. Local media said he was scheduled to meet the president on Wednesday to relay U.S. concerns over the recent Air Defense Identification Zone row.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister David Lin (林永樂) said that King's return was “routine.”

Local reports claim that the Foreign Ministry had leaked McCarthy's name, and that the U.S. subsequently decided on Wednesday to cancel the visit.

McCarthy, appointed administrator of the U.S. EPA in July, is scheduled to visit mainland China. The government's original plan, according to local reports, was to get McCarthy to visit Taiwan after the conclusion of her trip to the mainland, and the U.S. had purportedly informed mainland China of the arrangement and received no objections.

Kao said that King had returned upon the ministry's instructions, and that his return was related to a long-standing Taiwan-U.S. project, but she denied that the envoy's return had anything to do with a U.S. official's visit.

Unnamed sources indicated that news of McCarthy's visit was originally scheduled to be announced yesterday morning, but that following the recent turn of events, the visit was cancelled altogether.

The last time a U.S. cabinet-rank official visited Taiwan was in 2000 under the Clinton administration.

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