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2004-01-16 21:41:23

    Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian said Friday that he will ask the Taiwan people to decide in a proposed referendum whether the country should further strengthen its missile defense system and whether it should try to work out a peace interactive mechanism with mainland China.

    In a pre-taped TV broadcast to the nation, Chen announced the two questions to be put to the referendum. The first will be: "The People of Taiwan demand that the Taiwan Strait issue be resolved through peaceful means. Should mainland China (the PRC) refuse to withdraw the missiles it has targeted at Taiwan and to openly renounce the use of force against us, would you agree that the government should acquire more advanced anti-missile weapons to strengthen Taiwan's self-defense capabilities?"

    The second question will be: "Would you agree that our government should engage in negotiation with mainland China on the establishment of a 'peace and stability' framework for cross-strait interaction in order to build consensus and for the welfare of the peoples on both sides?"

    In the five-minute broadcast, the president accused the mainland of trying to change the status quo across the strait undemocratically and non-peacefully, citing the build-up of its missiles directed toward Taiwan as evidence of this.

    However, Chen said he will not give up his efforts to keep his inauguration promises to not attempt to change the status quo.

    Chen said the referendum is aimed at preventing Beijing from attacking the island and thereby changing the status quo across the strait. It will also help increase people's awareness of and readiness for Beijing's threats.

    He further promised not to push the envelope if he wins a second presidential term, vowing to do his utmost to keep the peace across the strait and defend the country's sovereignty, dignity and security, as well as to push for re-engineering the constitution "on the basis of maintaining the status quo."

    He promised to invite the mainland to appoint a representative to meet with a Taiwan-appointed envoy to commence negotiations on the establishment of a "peace and stability" framework for cross-strait interaction.

    This negotiation will cover such substantive issues as direct transportation, the protection of the rights and interests of Taiwanese businessmen operating on the mainland, and other topics.

    In this way "we can establish a new era of long-term stability and peace across the Taiwan Strait," he claimed.

    The referendum, which features prominent in Chen's re-election campaign will be held concurrently with the presidential election on March 20.

    When Chen first floated this idea, he caused deep concern both at home and abroad. His political rivals at home and many neighboring states, especially Japan and the United States, suspect him of trying to change the status quo in terms of the country's ties with the mainland.

    Chen has repeatedly claimed that he will not do so and has dispatched delegations to several countries to convey his assurances.

(By Maubo Chang)


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