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2004-01-02 22:12:31

    Taipei, Jan. 2 (CNA) Taiwan will send a delegation to the United States in mid-January to explain in detail its plan to hold a referendum on the day of the March 20 presidential election, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien said Friday.

    As the delegation is being organized by the National Security Council (NSC) under the Presidential Office, Chien said he is not in a position to reveal the roster of the delegation and other relevant details.

    Chien said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has assisted in collecting opinions of major foreign countries about Taiwan's referendum plan as well as compiling a position paper to be explained to American authorities and major think tanks to seek their understanding and support for the plan.

    The NSC is expected to announce its itinerary in the next few days, Chien said.

    President Chen Shui-bian has reaffirmed on many occasions his determination to hold a referendum to offer a venue for the people of Taiwan to express their feelings about Beijing's deployment of hundreds of missiles against Taiwan, but the United States fears that the move could be a gradual move to declare Taiwan independence and thus provoke an attack from mainland China.

    The NSC mission is expected to convince the U.S. authorities that the planned referendum is mainly aimed at strengthening Taiwan's young democracy and has nothing to do with the "independence versus unification" debate and will not violate President Chen's "four noes" pledge, MOFA sources said.

    Speaking at a MOFA staff new year's gathering, Chien said 2004 will be a year to publicize Taiwan's democratic achievements. "We'll hold a third direct presidential election in Match and a legislative election late this year. All MOFA staff should take advantage of these elections to help the world better understand the deepening of our democratization," Chien said.

    He further said that MOFA is now communicating with major foreign countries about the referendum plan.

    Meanwhile, Chien said, MOFA is busy receiving scores of foreign dignitaries to attend an Asian security conference to be held in Taipei over the weekend. More than 70 participants from countries and areas around the world have arrived, Chien said, adding that the event marks a good start for the nation's diplomatic work this year.

(By Sofia Wu)


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