Taiwanese Premier Vincent Siew Wan-chang, just back from a controversial trip to Malaysia, vowed last night that Taipei would work 'even more vigorously' to boost its international status. Amid recent signs of a thaw in cross-strait relations, Mr Siew defied warnings from Beijing and met Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed and Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim over lunch on Sunday. 'They are looking at investment opportunities,' a Malaysian official said. On his return to Taipei, Mr Siew declined to confirm who he had met in Malaysia, but said he believed Malaysia was a good place for Taiwanese businesses to invest. Mr Siew was widely reported to have discussed possible assistance to Malaysia, including bank loan guarantees, during his visit. 'We cannot allow ourselves to be constrained by the Chinese communists,' he said, reacting to Beijing's accusation that Taipei was exploiting the Asian economic crisis to make diplomatic gains. 'The increasing combination of government with private-sector resources is a worldwide trend that is not unique to us. 'And in our special diplomatic situation, we need to combine these forces even more.' He declined to comment on reports that Malaysia, which had already drawn Beijing's ire by hosting Taiwanese Vice-President Lien Chan and several business and government delegations, would soon invite President Lee Teng-hui to visit. The Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur denounced Mr Siew's actions as a 'political ploy'. It said Beijing had 'made representations to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia on the so-called 'holiday visit' of Vincent Siew to Malaysia'. Taiwan's United Daily News reported yesterday that Mr Siew had told Dr Mahathir of Taipei's commitment to work with the Asian Development Bank, the United States, Japan and Singapore to guarantee government bonds issued by financially battered Southeast Asian nations. The guarantee would be worth between US$500 million (HK$3.87 billion) and US$1 billion to Malaysia.