Tags: Taiwan's | Chen | Challenges | China

Taiwan's Chen Challenges China

Sunday, 08 February 2004 12:00 AM

Rejecting international concerns that the election would serve as a provocation, threatening the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, Chen described the March 20 referendum, Taiwan's first, as a key milestone in his country’s infant democracy, according to a report in the LA Times.

But French President Jacques Chirac has called the initiative a "grave error" that could destabilize the region.

Chen further charged that Beijing's denunciation of the upcoming referendum was nothing more than business as usual -- 17 years of intimidating the island's 23 million people as they head to democracy.

China views Taiwan as nothing more than a breakaway province that will someday be reunited under mainland rule, and has repeatedly warned that holding a referendum would be seen as a provocative step.

Historically, statements by Chen and predecessor, Lee Teng-hui, referring to Taiwan as an independent state have prompted severe rejoinders from the mainland.

Chen is placing two questions before the electorate:

Chen said he understood world concerns but downplayed the significance of his novel move:

"I appreciate the concerns from the international community — particularly from the U.S. government and President Bush — and I can assure everybody that the Taiwan issue is certainly not a liability or a burden to the United States."

In allied remarks Friday, Chen made these points:

In December, President Bush warned Chen that America would oppose any unilateral change in the status quo -- the arrangement under which Taiwan has enjoyed most benefits of an independent state yet has left unchallenged China's claim over the island.

The referendum is scheduled to be held on the same day Chen is seeking reelection in a tight race for Taiwan's presidency.

Chen has been accused by observers of deliberately trying to provoke an angry reaction from China that might win him votes.

The Taiwan referendum law enables a president to go to the electorate with issues that pose an imminent threat to the island's security. At the time he announced the referendum, Chen claimed that 496 missiles were aimed at the island.

Despite his fighting words to the Chinese, Chen pledged to maintain the status quo as he sees it -- including Taiwan as an independent, sovereign country that carries the official name of Republic of China but which "has yet to become a normal and complete country."

In 1972 the U.S., China and Taiwan agreed to a face-saving "one-China policy" under which China is labeled as a country under two governments awaiting eventual reunification. However, most countries, including the United States in 1979, eventually broke formal ties with Taipei. Today, Taiwan has diplomatic relations with 27 countries.

"No one believes in the one-China policy here," said Andrew Yang, secretary-general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, an independent think tank in Taipei.

Wu and other political observers believe that Chen — a native of Taiwan whose Democratic Progressive Party advocates formal independence — is both riding and encouraging this shift in the public mood.

It is a mood that has enabled him to push the envelope on creating greater political distance from China and has forced the opposition Nationalists to abandon the "One China" they helped create, according to the Times report.

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Rejecting international concerns that the election would serve as a provocation, threatening the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, Chen described the March 20 referendum, Taiwan's first, as a key milestone in his country's infant democracy, according to a report in the LA...
Taiwan's,Chen,Challenges,China
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2004-00-08
Sunday, 08 February 2004 12:00 AM
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