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U.S. STUDYING CHEN'S REFERENDUM QUESTIONS: POWELL

2004-01-17 18:17:06

    Washington, Jan. 16 (CNA) U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday that Republic of China President Chen Shui-bian has demonstrated some flexibility in wording his referendum questions, but the United States will reserve its reaction until studying Chen's statement carefully.

    In an satellite hook-up interview with Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, Powell said the U.S. government is not prepared to give a definitive answer to the question of whether it is satisfied with Chen's approach to the referendum following Chen's revealing Friday of the exact wording of the questions to be put to a referendum. "We are studying them...it's best that we study the language very, very carefully...before I offer an opinion on the details of the referendum," Powell said.

    He also reiterated the longstanding U.S. policy regarding the Taiwan Strait, including Washington's commitment to the one-China policy based on its three comuniques with mainland China, its obligations to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act and its opposition to any unilateral changes by either side to the status quo in the strait. "We have good relations with President Chen Shui-bian. He knows very clearly what our position is with respect to any move toward independence," Powell said. "Of course we support Taiwan. We have an obligation to do so under our Taiwan Relations Act, and both parties (China and Taiwan) are aware that we will continue to meet our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act," he added.

    U.S. President George Bush has expressed his disapproval with Chen's efforts to hold a referendum because of concerns that the ROC president might use it to justify a change to Taiwan's status quo. However, Chen has refused to back down and has repeatedly expressed his desire to hold a referendum on the day of the next presidential election set for March 20.

    Nevertheless, Chen revealed the carefully-worded referendum questions Friday, apparently in an effort to allay U.S. concerns and disarm any opposition Washington may have to a referendum.

(By Jay Chen & Maubo Chang)

ENDITEM/Li



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