The State Department is urging President Chen to “exercise leadership” by withdrawing the idea of the referendum, which it says would serve no purpose other than to increase tensions with China.
President Chen, whose pro-independence moves have frequently drawn U.S. criticism, is backing a plan for a referendum on the idea of the island joining the United Nations under the name Taiwan. The referendum would be held alongside Taiwan’s presidential election scheduled for March of next year.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the U.S. supports Taiwan’s inclusion, as appropriate, in international bodies that do not require statehood for membership.
“The United States opposes any initiative that appears designed to change Taiwan’s status unilaterally,” said McCormack. “This would include a referendum on whether to apply to the United Nations under the name Taiwan.”
“While such a referendum would have no practical impact on Taiwan’s U.N. status, it would increase tensions in the Taiwan Strait. Maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is of vital interest to the people of Taiwan and serves U.S. security interests as well,” he continued.
McCormack said the referendum idea appears to run counter to President Chen’s repeated commitments to President Bush and the international community not to upset the status quo in the region.
The Chinese government last week lashed out against the referendum plan, calling it a move to incite conflict and an attempt by President Chen to gain de jure independence for the island, which China considers a renegade province.
A Taiwanese spokesman said Tuesday the referendum would go forward despite the criticism, saying the proposed vote is supported by a majority of Taiwanese and does not violate any commitments by President Chen.
Spokesman McCormack said he expects the issue to be raised by the Chinese side at a two-day U.S.-China “senior dialogue” beginning here Wednesday, led by Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Chinese Executive Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo.
The meeting is otherwise expected to be dominated by discussion of U.S.-China bilateral relations and global issues, including efforts to curb the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran and the situation in Darfur.
The United States and Taiwan maintain unofficial relations through nominally private institutions in their respective capitals under terms of the Taiwan Relations Act, approved by Congress at the time of the recognition shift in 1979.
That measure also says the United States would consider any non-peaceful attempt to determine Taiwan’s future as a matter of grave concern, and authorizes sales of U.S. defensive weapons to the island.
Late last week, the Taiwanese parliament approved a government budget that featured a 25 percent increase in defense spending, including the purchase of 12 U.S.-built P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, and an upgrade of existing U.S. Patriot air defense missile batteries.
Though Taiwan will be purchasing only a fraction of an $18 billion arms package proposed by the Bush administration in 2001, the State Department applauded the defense increase.
A spokeswoman here said Taiwan’s decision, in the face of a sustained Chinese military buildup, is a deterrent to the use of force, and an incentive for Beijing to pursue dialogue with Taiwan.
Haha, Taiwan Province is more than willing to be used as a cash cow for the Americans to dump their obsolete weapons but they are strongly discouraged from provoking China into war. It would not be wise for Chen Abian to anger his American overlords with any more talk of joining the United Nations as “Taiwan” since the US government has already pointed out that they would not support them and their bid would fail just like the other past attempts regardless of what name they apply as.
Oh yes, Taiwan Province will eventually be liberated by China from the Taiwanese independence nutjobs and from becoming a pariah province in China. It would not be surprising if Taiwan Province is dumb enough to boycott the 2008 Olympics believing that it is 1980 all over again.
The last time Chen Shuibian offended the Americans, his US visa was restricted to only visiting Alaska. In response, Chen Abian threw a hissy fit and made a random journey across the world, even visiting Libya for some strange reason other than to further anger his American overlords.
Taiwan leader responds to US snub with global odyssey
By Kathrin Hille in Taipei
Published: May 9 2006 01:32 | Last updated: May 9 2006 01:32
Taiwan’s international isolation became all the more evident last week when the island’s president, on his way to Paraguay, scrapped a planned stop in Alaska. Mr Chen Shui-bian opted instead for a stopover – later aborted – in Beirut, a detour via Abu Dhabi and refuelling in Amsterdam. Analysts said Mr Chen’s odyssey also highlighted the risk that the president could become unpredictable during his last two years in office. They said he might be increasingly willing to risk the ire of the US – Taiwan’s sole protector against threats from [mainland] China and its single most important unofficial ally – if it helped his political agenda. Mr Chen’s detours were organised after Washington offered no more than refuelling in Anchorage or Hawaii for his trip, a substantial downgrade compared with previous US transits when he was allowed to spend a few days in the country, hold meetings and give speeches. Expressing his anger over what he considered to be a clear snub, Mr Chen reciprocated with his strange, intercontinental tour. “The more we get frustrated, the braver we have to be,” he said on Taiwanese television.
Ties with Washington have been less than smooth since Mr Chen angered Beijing by proposing constitutional reforms and holding a referendum on cross-Strait issues in 2004. “The big question now is whether he is spinning out of control,” said a US expert on Taiwan affairs. Mr Chen is struggling in his final term, which ends in May 2008. His approval ratings have plummeted, while the opposition’s legislative majority means that most of his policies have been blocked, raising the possibility that he may leave office without having achieved anything. Some analysts said this makes populist appeals to Taiwanese nationalism, even if they result in rising tensions with China and a rift with the US, one of the few choices Mr Chen has left.
US officials indicated that the Anchorage offer that infuriated Taipei so much reflected a lack of confidence in Mr Chen. Analysts said that when he had been given more favourable treatment, he had made his stopovers a “political show” for domestic consumption, and Washington did not trust Taipei to steer clear of similar action this time. “Mr Chen has managed to widely erode support in the most pro-Taiwan administration in recent memory,” said the US expert. When Mr Chen earlier this year broke a promise not to scrap an advisory body responsible for working towards unification with China, US delegates were assured by his aides in private that his other commitments – such as refraining from declaring independence – were still valid. However, Washington subsequently found it impossible to get a personal confirmation of this from him. “He says one thing and does another,” said the US expert. “He behaves like a lawyer”
Randall Schriver, former deputy assistant secretary of state, said US-Taiwan relations would now enter a “cooling-off period”, and Taipei needed to engage in close communication with Washington to stop an emerging “negative cycle” in bilateral ties.
Mr Chen’s chosen route for his return journey from Paraguay will be the first test whether Taipei is ready to do so. As of yesterday, the government had not made it clear whether the president would stick to plans for a transit through Anchorage tomorrow.