|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-314615 US-China-Taiwan (L-only)
INTRO: The United States says it expects Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian to hold to long-standing pledges not to upset the status-quo with China. The newly-reelected Taiwanese leader has told interviewers he considers the island independent from China and that he will press ahead with a drive for a new constitution. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
TEXT: Officials here say they do not yet have a clear picture of what the Taiwanese leader has in mind for his post-election program. But they are stressing that the United States wants to preserve peace and stability in the Taiwan straits and expects Mr. Chen to uphold promises he made when first elected in 2000 not to provoke Beijing.
In interview comments this week that have drawn vigorous Chinese criticism, Mr. Chen has attributed his narrow election win to a rising "Taiwan identity" among the island's population, where he said there is a consensus that Taiwan is an "independent sovereign country."
He also said he would push ahead with a referendum on constitutional reform, while blaming intimidation and threats by China for the failure of his two-part referendum on China to attract the necessary 50 per cent voter participation in the March 20th election.
At a news briefing here, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States would oppose any unilateral steps to change the status quo between Taiwan and China and noted that Mr. Chen said much the same thing when he first won election four years ago:
We note that in his inaugural address in 2000, President Chen pledged not to declare independence, not to change the name of Taiwan's government, not to add the "state-to-state" theory into the constitution, and not to promote a referendum to change the status quo on independence or unification. We appreciate those pledges from 2000 and the subsequent re-affirmations of it, and we still take it very seriously.
The United States has maintained only unofficial relations with Taiwan since shifting its diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979, though it remains committed to meeting Taiwan's defensive weapons needs under an act of Congress approved at that time.
China considers Taiwan a renegade province and has not ruled out the use of force to prevent its political independence.
Mr. Chen was declared the winner of the March 20th vote by the slimmest of margins. The verdict by the Taiwanese election commission spawned massive protests and some scattered violence, and drew a warning from China last week that it would "not stand idly" by if post-election turmoil spun out of control.
A senior diplomat here expressed relief Tuesday that the situation in Taiwan "has calmed down a bit" and that election disputes were being referred to courts. (Signed)
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