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REFERENDUM WILL REMIND PEOPLE OF BEIJING'S MISSILE THREAT: CHEN

2004-02-03 19:40:07

    Taipei, Feb. 3 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian said Tuesday that whether or not to strengthen the nation's anti-missile capability, one of the two questions to be put to vote in the upcoming referendum, will remind the people of mainland China's missile threat toward Taiwan.

    The president made the remarks when he presided over a one-hour mews conference attended by nearly 100 local and foreign reporters during which he spent a lot of time elaborating on the planned referendum to be held along with the presidential election March 20. He also touched on issues related to cross-strait relations and the presidential election.

    Government officials attending the news conference also included Chiou I-jen, secretary-general of the Presidential Office, Kang Ning-hsiang, secretary-general of the National Security Council, Minister of National Defense Tang Yiau-min, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien, and Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen.

    The president, while introducing the content and significance of the referendum, touted it as a universal value of democracy and that the Legislative Yuan passed the first-ever Referendum Law in late November.

    The president noted that mainland China has continued to deny Taiwan's national sovereignty and has attempted to force Taiwan to accept its "one country, two systems" framework. In recent years, it has also continued to increase missile deployment against Taiwan and has repeatedly said that it would never give up the use of force against Taiwan, he added.

    Such behavior, the president said, meets the conditions prescribed in the first paragraph of Article 17 of the Referendum Law, which empowers the president to call for a referendum when the nation is threatened by external force that could cause a change in the nation's sovereignty.

    To prevent Beijing from invading Taiwan and unilaterally changing the cross-strait status quo, the president said he has decided to invoke Article 17 and hold what he calls a " peace referendum." "The epoch-making referendum will display the will and resolve of the Taiwan people to safeguard national sovereignty and the pursuit of peace," the president said.

    The president said the first question to be put to a vote in the referendum will be whether or not to strengthen the nation's anti-missile capability. "Taiwan faces the world's most severe missile threat, " the president said. "It is anticipated that by 2005, China will have deployed a total of 600 ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan, and the accuracy of the missiles will be greatly enhanced, to the extent that they will be capable of striking all major military bases in Taiwan with little or no warning." "China is increasing its missile arsenal against Taiwan at a rate of one every six days. We must quickly established a consensus on strengthening our anti-missile capability to avoid a military imbalance and the urgency of enhancing our anti-missile capability, " Chen said.

    Turning to the other question concerning the establishment of a "peaceful and stable" framework for cross-strait interactions, the president spoke of the "assurance in two strong pillars of support: the people and democracy of Taiwan."

    He said, "As long as we are able to voice the collective will of the people of Taiwan, demonstrate consensus and make our demands clear, mainland China will have no choice but to give us credence and serious consideration. "The vitality of Taiwan's democratization will oblige mainland China to face the decisions by Taiwan -- particularly through democratic process, " the president said, even if mainland China "is not happy with the outcomes, they will have to accept them."

    He also said that after March 20, he will invite mainland China to send a special envoy to meet and work with "our envoys toward initiating cross-strait negotiation, in light of the "One principle and Four Major Issues areas, " including the principle of peace and the establishment of demilitarized zones to avoid military conflicts.

    In the question-and-answer session, the president also summarized his approach on cross-strait relations as "steadfast" and "pragmatic."

    The president said that the government's stance has been consistent and remains unchanged, citing his "four noes plus one" pledge made in his inaugural speech in 2000, the eventual pursuit of cross-strait political integration framework mentioned in his New Year's Eve address that year, the Tatan talks calling for the resumption of stalled cross-strait talks in mid-2002 and the recent call for the establishment of a "peaceful and stable" framework for cross-strait interactions.

    The guiding principles have been "goodwill reconciliation, active cooperation and everlasting peace" in dealing with cross-strait relations, he said.

    On whether the questions put to a vote in the referendum aim to boost his re-election bid and allaying foreign countries' misgivings, the president reaffirmed that the casting of votes in the first-ever referendum in Taiwan is a real democratic move and a show of the will of the majority of local people. "Beijing has said that it pins its hope on the people of Taiwan," the president said, then it has to know what is on Taiwan people's minds, and what is their inspiration and pursuit, which is the chance to build a peaceful and stable cross-strait framework. "When Taiwan people made a decision on the question, then Beijing authorities will have to decide wether to accept and respect the decision, the president said, adding that "it has nothing to do with the election," he said. "The referendum is for the security of Taiwan and everlasting cross-strait peace," the president said.

    The president promised that if elected, he will continue to promote political, economic, social and various other reforms.

    He also pledged that he will continue to safeguard the status quo of Taiwan, referring to the "four noes and plus one" pledges in his 2000 inaugural speech, including no referendum concerning the nation's status on independence or unification with mainland China.

(By Lilian Wu)

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