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PRESIDENT HOPES U.S. WILL PLAY BIGGER ROLE IN CROSS-STRAIT RELATIONS

2004-04-05 23:19:00

    Taipei, April 5 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian expressed hope Monday that the United States will play a more active role as a "peace envoy" between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to help build a bridge of friendship across the strait.

    The president made the remarks at the Presidential Office when he received a delegation of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP) , a major U.S. think tank, that came here to observe the post-presidential election situation.

    Chen said that neither Taiwan, the United States nor mainland China should ignore the situation and challenge faced by Taiwan after the March 20 presidential election.

    The significance of the election was the display of the will of the Taiwan people, which is to "protect Taiwan against China" and Beijing should heed this rising Taiwan identify, Chen said.

    He noted that in the 2000 presidential election, he won by garnering 39.3 percent of the votes and that the victory was considered a "win by chance." At the time, he said, he was a minority president leading a minority administration without a broad-based mandate from the people.

    Although he has made various proposals on cross-strait peace interactions over the past four years, they have been repeatedly questioned or rebuffed by the Beijing authorities, some groups in the United States and even by the opposition parties in Taiwan.

    But he stressed that this time, though only winning a narrow victory against his rival, he garnered 1.5 million more votes than last time, making him a national leader that truly represents that mainstream will of the people. "After this election, " he said, he is sure "the Beijing authorities will not regard him as a minority government or as someone who does not represent the will of the majority of the people" and will deal with him.

    He also said that in his May 20 inauguration for another four-year term, he will make a new proposal on cross-strait relations based on his 2000 inaugural speech -- in which he made known his "four noes plus one" pledge, including no declaration of independence if Beijing does not use force against Taiwan.

    He noted that in his last inaugural speech, he noted that the 23 million people of Taiwan cannot accept Beijing's "one China" principle, which he said is in fact "one country, two systems" and that the focus is "one country" and not "two systems" for Beijing, which the Taiwan people find impossible to accept.

    Chen said that for Beijing, "one China" is a "principle," but for Taiwan, it is an "issue" and as such, both sides can discuss a solution. He added that he has urged the leaders of both sides to use wisdom to solve the issue. "If Beijing had understood the appeal four years ago, then cross-strait relations would not be so stalemated and the sentiment of Taiwan identity would not have risen as high as it has, " Chen said. "With the relentless stifling of Taiwan in military, diplomatic and trade areas by Beijing over the past four years, " he said, "Taiwan people have drifted further away from Beijing."

    He cited as an example polls in recent years showing that those who identify themselves as Taiwanese rather than Chinese have increased to more than 50 percent, which was something unimaginable in the past. "If the Beijing authorities will not adjust their policy toward Taiwan, the developments will be more unfavorable for them, " Chen warned.

    In view of this, he said that he broached a peace and stability interaction framework -- one of the two questions put forward in the March 20 referendum vote -- so that both sides can negotiate and the stalled cross-strait relations can return to normal. "The policy to unite Taiwan people, seek a stable cross-strait relationship, a stable society and prosperous economy will remain unchanged in the next four years, " the president said.

    To promote peace and stability under a cross-strait interaction framework, he said he has commissioned Lee Yuan-tseh, president of Academia Sinica and respected Nobel laureate, as a co-convener to push for the operation of such a framework.

    He also expressed the hope that the United States will play a more active role in helping build up the friendship between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

    On his plan to write a new constitution and implement it in the next four years, he stressed that to put the new constitution to a referendum in 2006 is a goal of democratic reforms and a time schedule for deepening democracy, and will by no means represent a timetable for Taiwan independence. "We seek the long-term national wellbeing and efficiency of the government by putting the new constitution to a referendum vote, " he said, adding that the referendum will have nothing to do with a vote on independence.

    He reiterated that he will base constitutional reforms on the principles of "openness and transparency" and the premise of "no change of the status quo or sovereignty."

    The NCAFP delegation was led by its president, George D. Schwab, with members including former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Winston Lord, Donald S. Zagoria and UC Berkeley Professor Robert A. Scalapino.

    The delegation earlier visited opposition Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan, who lost by a small margin to Chen.

    During the 90-minute meeting, Lien said that the issue of cross-strait relations lies in "what is the status quo? " He said he believes the status quo should be no advocacy of Taiwan independence.

    Judging from former President Lee Teng-hui's words that "Taiwan has no need to declare independence, " he claimed that the "pan-green camp"-- referring to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and its ally the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) -- has made "status quo" equal to "Taiwan independence." Former President Lee is the spiritual leader of the TSU.

(By Lilian Wu)

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