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Chen rejects 'provocative' label

Rice says referendum promises no real benefits for Taiwan on the international stage

Chen rejects 'provocative' label

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday the drive for a referendum on whether the country should apply to join the United Nations under the name Taiwan is an expression of the public's aspiration and by no means a provocative policy.
Chen made the remarks on the sidelines of a seminar on the urban development of the central city of Taichung in response to a press query about his view on U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's reference to Taiwan's planned United Nations bid referendum as a "provocative policy" the previous day.
Rice on Friday reiterated the United States' opposition to Taiwan's referendum plan in a press conference held in Washington, D.C. Calling the referendum a "provocative policy, " Rice said the referendum unnecessarily raises tensions in the Taiwan Strait and promises no real benefits for the people of Taiwan on the international stage.
While repeating the Bush administration's objections, Rice's statement was particularly pointed as it was one of only a handful of topics she raised unprompted at a year-end U.S. State Department news conference.
"As we have stated in recent months, we think that Taiwan's referendum to apply to the United Nations under the name Taiwan is a provocative policy," she said.
"It unnecessarily raises tensions in the Taiwan Strait, and it promises no real benefits for the people of Taiwan on the international stage."
Stressing that the referendum initiative was proposed by the grass-roots public and endorsed by about 2.73 million citizens, Chen said his administration is obliged to hold the referendum in accordance with the existing law.
"It's a response to a public petition, not a provocative policy. As a democratically elected government, we must respect public opinion," he added categorically.
Chen also pointed his finger at Beijing, saying that China, rather than Taiwan, is provocative.
"Just recently, China listed eight Taiwanese ports, including Keelung, Hualien, Kaohsiung, Mailiao and Taichung, as its domestic ports. Such a move is starkly provocative," he emphasized.
Having faith
In his remarks, Chen expressed gratitude for Rice's reaffirmation of the United States' commitment to helping maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait.
The president further said he is convinced that the U.N. bid referendum will be passed in a vote slated for March 22, 2008 when the electorate will also elect a new president.
Taiwan's foreign minister yesterday also urged the United States to not "overreact" to the island's planned referendum on U.N. membership after Rice objected to the move.
"For all these years, Taiwanese have proved they have the wisdom and capability to handle issues regarding deepening democracy and cross-strait relations," Foreign Minister James Huang (黃志芳) said.
"I hope the U.S. can try better to understand the situation and not overreact ... That could make matters more complicated," he said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking at a separate news conference on Friday, said the administration is not concerned that the move, planned for March, would lead to military action by the region's communist powerhouse.
The United States' repeated comments on the planned referendum, that will ask Taiwanese voters whether they support applying to join the United Nations under its own name rather than its official title of the Republic of China, were important for Washington's relations with China.
"The Chinese government knows that we have spoken out," Gates said.
"I think they'd like for us to speak out every single day. But I think that they know that we have weighed in heavily on this matter with the Taiwanese."
He added that the United States has also made clear to China that any differences should handled through diplomatic means.
"I'm not worried that there will be a military reaction," he said.
Beijing has blasted Taiwan's bid as a precursor to formal independence, and the distinction in the name is crucial because the Republic of China name connotes fealty to the one-China concept that Beijing demands and the United States accepts.
Rice's statement on Friday follows similar remarks on the situation made over the past few months by several other lower-level United States officials, including including U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, Tom Christensen, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt.


Updated : 2021-04-11 02:32 GMT+08:00