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May 29, 2017

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New diplomatic pact to prevent US court subpoena drama

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taipei and Washington have renewed an agreement that would prevent a repeat of a diplomatic blunder where Taiwan's diplomats were subpoenaed by a U.S. court to testify against a colleague in a fraud case.

The new diplomatic agreement releases Taiwan's diplomats to the United States of all obligations to serve as witnesses in court, according to the United Evening News.

These diplomats are allowed to forfeit their diplomatic immunity only with authorization from Taipei's highest representative to Washington, heads of the representative office's branches, or directly from the foreign ministry, the paper said.

The paper said these new terms are meant to prevent Taiwan's diplomats from testifying against one another in U.S. court, in the wake of the trial of Jacqueline Liu, a former head of Taipei's economic and cultural office in Kansas.

In 2011, Liu, who was then still head of the Kansas office, was arrested by the FBI in 2011 on charges that she mistreated two Philippine domestic helpers and paid them much less than the sums indicated in the contracts.

Three staff members of the Kansa office later forfeited their diplomatic immunity and testified in the trial.

Liu later made a plea bargain, admitting to fraud charges of underpaying the domestic helpers. She paid a fine and was deported.

Liu returned to Taiwan maintaining that she was innocent, but was suspended from work for two years for causing huge embarrassment to the Taiwan government.

Most of the other terms in the renewed agreement are similar to the old one. Although the United States does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country, their diplomats stationed in each other's territory still enjoy usual diplomatic immunity under the agreement.

The renewed agreement has yet to be ratified by Taiwan's Legislature since it was signed in February 2013, the United Evening News said.

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