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TAIWAN-U.S. RELATIONS UNCHANGED DESPITE DIFFERENCE OVER REFERENDUM

2004-03-16 18:45:49

    Taipei, March 16 (CNA) Although the United States has its own view of Taiwan holding its first nationwide referendum in tandem with the March 20 presidential election, this does not mean that there is a change in basic Taiwan-U.S. relations, a top campaign aide for President Chen Shui-bian said Tuesday.

    Chiou I-jen, secretary general of the Presidential Office, made the remarks when he briefed more than 600 journalists from more than 200 international media organizations on Taiwan's 2004 presidential election.

    Chiou said that as the U.S. has different views from Taiwan on the referendum issues on enhancing Taiwan's anti-missile capability and on the opening of cross-strait talks on peace and stability, deeming the questions unnecessary, both sides need to step up communications.

    But he stressed that there is no change in basic Taiwan-U.S. relations, and both sides maintain close exchanges.

    Noting that mainland China had stressed in the past that the March 20 referendum will lead Taiwan down the path toward independence, Chiou said he hoped that other nations will not listen only to Beijing's words.

    The referendum mainly aims to strengthen the democratic process in Taiwan, Chiou said, adding that he hopes Taiwan's efforts in democratization will become a beacon to influence mainland China.

    He also said that if the referendum fails to pass, it is likely to be interpreted that Taiwan is suitable for the "one country, two systems" formula cherished by mainland China.

    This is why President Chen Shui-bian said that the failure of the referendum will mean a victory for China, Chiou added.

    If the referendum fails, Chiou said, the government will be unable to increase the budget for national defense to purchase anti-missile equipment, although it will not mean that the government will not buy anti-missile equipment, adding that the national budget already passed will continue to be carried out.

    Even if the referendum is rejected as some have advocated because they deem President Chen has called it illegally, relations with the United States will not be affected, as the government will continue to carry out the implementation of its national defense budget in a responsible way.

    Turning to the presidential election, Chiou said that though President Chen and his sole rival from the "pan-blue alliance, " Lien Chan, are running neck and neck, he believes that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will triumph. "I can't imagine that the DPP will lose this battle," Chiou said, adding however that "if Lien wins, it will be the beginning of the power struggle within the 'pan-blue alliance.'"

(By Lilian Wu)

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