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TAIWAN-U.S. RELATIONS A CHALLENGE: PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE SPOKESMAN

2004-01-02 20:47:21

    Taipei, Jan. 2 (CNA) A senior Presidential Office official acknowledged Friday that Taiwan-U.S. relations are a current challenge and that developments in the next three to five months will have a critical impact.

    Nevertheless, Chiou I-jen, President Chen Shui-bian's chief of staff, said Taiwan-U.S. relations have remained unchanged and that the basic framework for bilateral exchanges is intact.

    Chiou stressed that communications between the two sides have proceeded smoothly.

    Admitting that the United States is concerned about President Chen's plan to hold a referendum on the day of the March 20 presidential election, Chiou said the two sides have continued consultations on the issue.

    Chen has reaffirmed his determination on many occasions to hold a referendum to offer a venue for the people of Taiwan to express their feelings about Beijing's deployment of hundreds of missiles against Taiwan, but the United States fears that the move could be a gradual move to declare Taiwan independence and thus provoke an attack from mainland China.

    Chiou said the two sides need further communications regarding the referendum issue. "The United States hopes to know the exact wording of our defensive referendum topic, " he noted, adding that Taiwan will do its utmost to convince the U.S. authorities that the planned referendum is by no means an "independence versus unification" vote and will not violate President Chen's "four noes" pledge.

    Meanwhile, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Ying-mao Kau said Taiwan is ready to send a delegation to the United States to explain the referendum plan in detail. The itinerary has yet to be finalized because the United States is still on Christmas and New Year holiday, he added.

(By Sofia Wu)

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