Francisco  Ou

Francisco Ou

Former Foreign Minister

Date of Birth: 05/01/1940
Place of Birth: Hsinchu

Francisco Ou became Taiwan's Foreign Minister on 20 May 2008, as the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party, KMT), in opposition for eight years, returned to executive power on the back of Ma Ying-jeou's promises of improved ties with China (AAC Vol 1 No 5).

Optimists saw progress in the 12-13 June 2008 talks between the two sides. The rivals signed agreements to open direct passenger flights across the Taiwan Strait and to increase Chinese tourism to Taiwan. So on the back burner, for now, appear to be the 'dollar diplomacy' battles that Taiwan has fought, and largely lost, for decades.

Ou is a career diplomat with long experience in Latin America, one of Taiwan's main battlegrounds for recognition. He has seen postings in Peru, Nicaragua, Argentina and most recently Guatemala. During this time, he served strongman Chiang Ching-kuo, Chiang Kai-shek's son, and each of Taiwan's three elected Presidents.

Ou pledged to strengthen ties with existing allies rather than pursue new ones. Yet Taiwan's renewed discussions with China are handled by semi-official organisations dedicated to cross-strait relations. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not involved.

In his first month in office, Ou faced charges of disloyalty to Taiwan after oppositionists discovered he had obtained permanent residency in the United States while he was ambassador to Guatemala. (The green card was relinquished before he took office.) Then relations with Japan took a hit: on 10 June, a Japanese Coast Guard patrol collided with and sunk a Taiwanese fishing boat off the Senkaku islands. The uninhabited islands abound with mineral resources and are claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan. Ou recalled Taiwan's Tokyo representative in protest.

Ou resigned from his post on September 10, 2009 following a government reshuffle.