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President meets AIT head during Alaska stopover

Chen calls for Bush to safeguard democracy rather than concentrate on U.S. interests

President meets AIT head during  Alaska stopover

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) urged that his U.S. counterpart safeguard the values of democracy rather than U.S. national interests, in a closed-door meeting with Raymond F. Burghardt, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, yesterday on his way home, said a Presidential Office official in Anchorage.
Chen expressed worry that the U.S. seems to have tilted toward China on several issues, citing Washington's opposition to a proposed referendum on Taiwan's bid for the United Nations membership, said David Lee, spokesperson of the Presidential Office.
Chen told the top AIT official that he believes that as the U.S. has been Taiwan's best friend, it would never betray Taiwan.
But "we have a growing worry that the U.S. has tilted toward China," Lee quoted Chen as saying during the meeting with Burghardt.
The Presidential Office spokesperson added that Chen voiced his concerns to Burghardt over the U.S.' opposition to the referendum issue.
Chen told the AIT official that the Taiwan government has worked hard to uphold hallmarks of democracy, such referendum, but that the U.S. would be safeguarding its own interests should it bow to China's influence, Lee related.
According to Lee, the meeting lasted an hour and 50 minutes on the aircraft during Chen's stop in Alaska on his return to Taiwan from Central America.
The took place on the aircraft after Chen turned down Burghardt's invitation to disembark and to rest in a lounge where the AIT chairman said many people were waiting greet the president.
During the private meeting Chen also commented on the statement by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte Monday that the U.S. government opposed the U.N.-related referendum advocated by the Democratic Progressive Party government, because Washington took the move as a step toward Taiwan's declaration of independence, Lee disclosed.
Lee told reporters after the meeting that the president advised the U.S. to think about the meaning of several public opinion polls in Taiwan and reconsider how it should define the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.
Chen urged Washington to consider the fact that 74 percent of people in Taiwan view the island as an independent sovereignty, according to Lee.
The president also suggested that the U.S. government should deliberate on the results of an opinion poll that showed 85 percent of Taiwanese do not consider mainland China as part of R.O.C. national territory. Moreover, 69 percent of the respondents in that poll consider themselves Taiwanese, not Chinese, Chen told Burghardt.
Chen explained that the result of the proposed referendum would convey mainstream opinion in Taiwan to the rest of the world and highlight the people's determination for Taiwan to become a U.N. member, although the vote may not lead to immediate admittance to the world body. The planned referendum would be conducive to greater domestic solidarity, the president claimed.
In response to Burghardt's question on the next step by the Taiwan government should the referendum be held, Chen said that only the 23 million people of the island have the final say on the future and on how bilateral ties between Taiwan and China should develop.
Noting that Taiwan's young democracy was established based on the encouragement and support of the U.S., Chen said that "it would not be a real democracy if Taiwan people can't make the decision themselves."
Chen arrived in Anchorage at 11:20 a.m. yesterday Taipei time after wrapping up a three-nation visit to Central America. En route to Honduras on August 21, he also refused to disembark from the plane in Alaska in a silent protest against the U.S. government's restrictions on his transit points.
Upon returning at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Chen reiterated that on the contrary to Negroponte's view, "The referendum will help safeguard the status quo of the Taiwan Strait as the popular vote will prevent China from changing the statues quo" by invading the island.


Updated : 2021-06-13 12:51 GMT+08:00