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Taiwan Cabinet Changes - 2002-01-21

President Chen Shui-bian has re-shuffled his cabinet, giving Taiwan its third premier in less than two years.

President Chen Shui-bian's decision to name Yu Shyi-kun the new premier, follows legislative elections last month, which unseated the Kuomintang (KMT) as the largest political party in Taiwan. The appointment of Mr. Yu, who had been secretary general of the Office of the President, may be a sign that President Chen seeks cooperation rather than confrontation in the next two years of his term of office.

Mr. Yu succeeds Chang Chun-hsiung, whose tenure was marked by confrontations with a hostile legislature dominated by the opposition KMT. Mr. Chang and his cabinet handed in their resignations Monday.

The Chen administration is anxious to improve relations with the legislature, as it struggles to revive the flagging Taiwan economy. Mr. Yu, who handled an initiative to forge cross-party cooperation after last month's legislative election, is likely to be more low-key in dealing with legislators than his predecessor.

At his first press conference in the capital city of Taipei, Mr. Yu announces his first eight cabinet appointments.

He has named new defense and foreign ministers, as well as a new vice premier, the current economics minister, Lin Hsin-yi. Tsai Ying-wen keeps her post as head of the Mainland Affairs Council, which handles relations with Beijing. China considers Taiwan a breakaway province.

President Chen's move comes days before elections for city, county and precinct officials, who form the backbone of the Taiwan's political establishment. The president's Democratic Progressive Party lost several key seats in last month's mayoral and county commissioner races, and is keen to do better this time.

The new premier reportedly asked a KMT official to become vice premier, but was rebuffed by the KMT leadership. Mr. Yu is expected to announce his choices for economic posts and other ministries in a few days, and the cabinet will be sworn in next month.

If the opposition parties refuse to take part in the new cabinet, the Chen administration still may woo over some independent legislators. That will give it the strength to shape national policy over the next two years, helping President Chen polish his record before he campaigns for a second four-year term in 2004.