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2004-01-07 18:01:25

    Taipei, Jan. 7 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian said Wednesday that it is mainland China, not Taiwan, that is working to unilaterally change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

    Chen made the remarks while meeting with a group of foreign scholars and experts who are in Taipei to attend a seminar on Taiwan-U.S.-Japan strategic security cooperation.

    Chen said he appreciates U.S. President George W. Bush's statement made during a meeting with mainland Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last December that the United States is opposed to either side of the Taiwan Strait taking unilateral steps to change the status quo.

    Nevertheless, Chen went on, he must remind the world that mainland China is endeavoring to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. "China is adopting a 'nibbling' rather than an 'engulfing' approach to change the status quo," according to Chen.

    On the military front, Chen said, mainland China has stepped up military build-up and intends to break the current military balance in the Taiwan Strait in its favor between 2005 and 2008. "This means Beijing wants to quietly and unilaterally change the status quo," he warned.

    Economically, Chen went on, mainland China has spared no efforts to court Taiwan investors with a view to holding Taiwan hostage to its economic clout. "This is also part of mainland China's efforts to unilaterally change the status quo."

    In other words, Chen said, mainland China is seeking to nibble at, rather than engulf, Taiwan.

    Referring to U.S. concern about his administration's plan to hold a referendum to coincide with the March 20 presidential election, Chen said the planned referendum is aimed at protecting Taiwan's status quo from being changed.

    The Bush administration has on many occasions expressed opposition to Taiwan's referendum plan as it fears that the move might lead to a change in the island's status quo and thus provoke an attack by mainland China.

    Chen told his guests that in fact, the planned referendum will merely offer a platform for local people to express their feelings about mainland China's deployment of hundreds of missiles targeting Taiwan.

    It is unfair to paint the referendum as a provocative act, Chen said, adding that the referendum will neither touch on the "independence versus unification" debate nor violate the "five noes" pledge he made in his inauguration speech of 2000. "Referendum is a universal value and a basic human right. The people of Taiwan should not be deprived of this right. And the ultimate goal of the planned referendum is to pursue lasting peace in the Taiwan Strait and the entire world," Chen explained.

    Since assuming office in May 2000, Chen said he has faithfully abided by his "five noes" pledge, which includes no declaration of Taiwan independence and no change to Taiwan's official national title or flag.

(By Sofia Wu)


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