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U.S. official calls referendum 'perplexing'

Wilder says Taiwan's efforts to join U.N. creates 'unnecessary tension' in region

U.S. official calls referendum 'perplexing'

A senior White House official Thursday called Taiwan's planned referendum on joining the United Nations "perplexing," saying it adds unnecessary tension to regional relations.
"Membership in the United Nations requires statehood. Taiwan, or the Republic of China, is not at this point a state in the international community," National Security Council (國家安全會議) senior director for Asian affairs Dennis Wilder said.
"So we find the attempts by the DPP (Democratic Progressive) Party in Taiwan to call for a referendum of this subject a little bit perplexing as to why this would be useful, given the fact that Taiwan is not going to be able to join the United Nations under current circumstances, and that it only adds a degree of tension to cross-straits relations that we deem unnecessary."
On Thursday Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), secretary general of the ruling DPP, hit back at an earlier condemnation of the referendum plan by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who called it a provocative step toward declaring full independence - a highly sensitive issue, as China insists Taiwan is part of its territory.
"Taiwan stands on the just and right side while a few U.S. officials will be judged by history," said Lin.
"We hope the U.S. would respect Taiwan's mainstream public opinion and not bow to pressure from the Chinese communists."
Foreign Minister James Huang (黃志芳) expressed similar sentiments, and said yesterday that Taiwan will not give in on pressure and call off its plan hold a referendum on its application for U.N. membership under the name of Taiwan.
Huang said he would not be surprised if Washington is to escalate its pressure on Taiwan over this issue, but he added that Taiwan would not give in easily as it is a matter that concerns Taiwan's basic principle and values.
Another spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs refuted the Wilder's reference to Taiwan as not a state in the international community, saying that Taiwan is of no doubt an independent and sovereign country that cannot be denied by any foreign government official.
Wang Chien-yeh told media that he hopes that that U.S. President George Bush would do or say anything that would harm the friendly and mutually beneficial relations between Taiwan and the United States in his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) next Thursday.
Wang's appeal came two days after the U.N. Secretariat distributed documents related to a motion initiated by Taiwan's diplomatic allies regarding the country's latest U.N. bid, to U.N. missions of all member countries.
Meanwhile, Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), the presidential candidate of the opposition Kuomintang, supported Wang's view, saying that the Republic of China is certainly a country from the viewpoint of the R.O.C.
There are more than 20 members of the international community that recognize the R.O.C. as a country, and it is regarded as a "foreign country" according to the law of the United States, said Ma.
Ma said the U.S. is concerned that Taiwan's plan to hold a referendum on its U.N. bid under the name of Taiwan will result in a unilateral change to the cross-Taiwan Strait status quo, triggering a cross-strait crisis.
However, a KMT proposal to hold a referendum on "the Republic of China's return to the United Nations" will not raise such concerns because the R.O.C. was one of the founders of the international organization, Ma said, predicting that such a "flexible and pragmatic" proposal will not lead to cross-strait tension.
Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強), who had served as foreign minister, had a different view. Hu said he personally believes that neither the KMT nor the DPP should press ahead with their referendum plans at the risk of escalating tensions in Taiwan's relations with the Untied States and China.
Hu said he did not see the point for holding such a referendum as it is already a consensus of the people here for Taiwan to join the United Nations and other international organizations.
KMT Legislative Whip Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) described Wilder's remarks on Taiwan's referendum plan as a slap in the face of the DPP government. Kuo urged the government to do whatever it can to protect Taiwan's national status, instead of spoiling it for short-term political goals.