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U.S. CHINESE AFFAIRS EXPERT URGES TAIWAN TO GO AHEAD WITH REFERENDUM

2004-01-08 21:17:27

    Taipei, Jan. 8 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian's call for a referendum on Beijing's missile threat against Taiwan has increased the international community's understanding of Beijing's bullying of Taiwan and has raised local people's awareness of Beijing's hostility toward them, a U.S. Chinese affairs expert said Thursday.

    John J. Tkacik, a researcher at the U.S. Heritage Foundation, told a seminar held at the Central News Agency that Taiwan should not bother to seek U.S. endorsement for its referendum, as it will be impossible to obtain.

    Instead, the country should live up to its claims as a sovereign state by going ahead with the referendum with confidence. This will pave the way for the next government to increase its defense budget to acquire arms from the United States and also press home to Beijing local people's resentment of its military threat, Tkacik said.

    Although U.S. President George W. Bush has publicly expressed his disapproval of Taiwan's proposed referendum, Tkacik claimed there is nothing Bush can do if Taipei goes its own way.

    It would be politically untenable for Bush to complain about Taiwan because of its referendum, which is a common practice in democracies, while turning a blind eye to Beijing's missile threat against Taiwan, according to Tkacik.

    Legislator Chen Tan-sun, who is set to head for the United States along with a Taipei delegation later this month to try to calm Washington's misgivings about the referendum, said the international situation is not favorable toward Taiwan calling a referendum at present.

    The United States, which is seeking Beijing's cooperation in reconstructing Iraq, stopping North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, and balancing its trade with mainland China, does not want to see Taiwan distracting its attention from these matters by disrupting its association with the mainland, Chen noted.

    Chen said the mission of his delegation is to hear of the views of U.S. officials and public opinion leaders in the hope of finding a way out of the dilemma.

    Lai Yi-chung, director of the International Affairs Department at the Taiwan Thinktank, took issue with the idea that the United States need Beijing's help in disarming North Korea of its nuclear weapons and claimed that it is the other way round, because a North Korea with nuclear arms is more of a threat to the mainland than it is to the United States.

    Sandwiched between the mainland and South Korea, North Korea is be a thorn in Beijing's side rather than Washington's and therefore it is the mainland who is keen to see Pyongyang's nuclear program scuttled, Lai claimed.

    According to Lai, the worries of Washington and Tokyo over Taiwan's referendum lies in the fact that they adhere to their "one China" policies, which he claimed are out of date now that the Cold War has ended. They are also not used to a fully democratic Taiwan assertive in determining its own affairs, he added.

    He predicted that the two countries will eventually come to terms with a Taiwan which is eager to have a say in determining its own future and will be forced to review and change their "one China" policies.

    Taiwan's referendum in defiance of their worries will raise the country's profile in the triangle ties between Washington, Tokyo and Taipei to the benefit of Taiwan, that is one of the reasons behind the president's insistence to go ahead with the referendum.

    Tkacik is in Taiwan at the invitation of the Taiwan Thinktank.

    The seminar, called CNA Forum, was presided over by the agency's editor-in-chief Liu Chih-tsung.

(By Maubo Chang)

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