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SLUG: 2-316075 Taiwan President (L)
TITLE=TAIWAN PRESIDENT - L
INTRO: Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian has been sworn-in for his second term - pledging to improve tense relations with Communist China. In his inaugural address, Mr. Chen called for new thinking on both sides to resolve the longstanding dispute over Taiwan's status. V-O-A's Michael Kitchen was at the swearing-in ceremony in Taipei and brings us this report.
TEXT: After taking the oath of office Thursday for his second term, Chen Shui-bian focused much of his inaugural address on finding peace with China.
Although ruled separately since 1949, China considers Taiwan a part of its territory and has demanded eventual reunification. Just this week, Beijing again threatened to use force against the island, if Taiwan were to move toward formal independence.
In his address delivered in a heavy downpour of rain, Mr. Chen sought to ease Beijing's concern.
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Mr. Chen says both sides should seek to maintain the current peaceful status quo for the time being, and that Taiwan would not rule out reunification, as long as the Taiwanese people give their approval.
But he warned that China's efforts to isolate the island are pushing Taiwanese opinion away from the idea of reunification. Currently only several dozen countries recognize Taiwan diplomatically and China has blocked Taiwan's membership in international organizations - such as the World Health Organization.
For his part, the president explained that his campaign pledge to amend Taiwan's constitution is not signaling moves toward formal independence, but is aimed at improving the efficiency of Taiwan's government.
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Mr. Chen says issues of "national sovereignty" or independence should not be a part of the constitutional reform process.
China's Foreign Ministry Thursday refused to comment directly on the Taiwan's president's speech.
Mr. Chen won re-election in March, narrowly defeating opposition candidate Lien Chan by a margin of less than one percent of the vote.
Mr. Lien has disputed the results, questioning the high number of ballots declared invalid and other alleged irregularities.
Taiwan's High Court is expected to rule on a vote recount within the coming weeks.
In his address, Mr. Chen reiterated his promise to abide by whatever decision the court makes on the recount.
Opposition supporters held a protest rally in Taipei during Thursday's inauguration, demanding a new election. (SIGNED)
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