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PRESIDENT: TAIWAN TAKES BUSH'S REMARKS SERIOUSLY

2004-01-06 23:22:18

    Taipei, Jan. 6 (CNA) Taiwan takes U.S. President George W. Bush's remarks about the country's referendum seriously, President Chen Shui-bian told a delegation from the U.S. National Committee on U.S.-China Relations Tuesday.

    However, the president did not say how he intends to straighten out the differences between the two countries over his proposal for a referendum to coincide with the March 20 presidential election.

    Chen wants to hold a referendum to underline Beijing's military threat against Taiwan, but the move has been frowned upon by Bush out of fear that Chen might use it to justify attempts to change the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.

    Chen refused to withdraw his horns despite the repeated unveiled warnings from Washington that the U.S. government is concerned about Chen's proposed referendum.

    During his meeting with the delegation from the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, Chen reiterated that the proposed referendum is aimed at cementing the country's burgeoning democracy and improving regional stability. He even renamed what was initially called a "defensive referendum" as a "peace referendum" in an attempt to alleviate Washington's concerns.

    He assured his visitors that his referendum will not contradict the promise he made at his 2000 inauguration not to attempt any change to the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.

    In order to dispute the opposition parties' claims that the delegation is visiting to dissuade Chen from going ahead with the referendum, Chen made a point of asking Stapleton Rey, a former U.S. Ambassador to China and head of the delegation, if he was on a mission to relay Washington's concerns and was glad to get a negative answer.

    During the meeting, Chen also made a pitch for his call for writing a new constitution by 2008, also via referendum.

    Claiming that two-thirds of the articles of the existing Constitution are out of date and that the preceding government took 10 years to fix it six times, to the satisfaction of no one, the president said the only way to address the problem is to write a new constitution.

    However, the red tape stipulated in the Constitution about constitutional amendments make it virtually impossible to write a new constitution via normal methods, and the only way out of the dilema is to appeal to the people via referendum for approval of a new constitution, said the president.

    The president went into detail about what he called the 12 issues arising from the Constitution which render the whole Constitution impractical.

(By Maubo Chang)

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