Chen reaffirms restraint over independence moves

The China Post staff

President Chen Shui-bian has reaffirmed his commitment to refraining from declaring Taiwan independence during his tenure so long as mainland China does not use force against Taiwan. Chen made the reaffirmation in a written interview with a major Canadian newspaper, The National Post, which published the interview in its Tuesday edition. It was the first time that a Canadian paper has published the full text of an interview with an ROC head of state. In the interview, Chen stressed that Taiwan is neither Hong Kong nor Macau and that the “one country, two systems” scheme Beijing used in ruling the two former Western colonies after regaining control has no appeal for the people of Taiwan. “The results of a number of public opinion polls have consistently shown that the majority of Taiwan people snub the Beijing-proposed ‘one country, two systems’ unification formula,” Chen said. He insisted that any settlement to the dispute across the Taiwan Strait must respect the free choice of the 23 million Taiwan residents and should not impair Taiwan’s national interests. In the future, Chen said, cross-strait engagement should proceed under the principles of “democracy, parity and peace.” He also expressed his hopes that mainland China forsakes its saber-rattling and replace conflict with negotiation. “Permanent cross-strait peace can be achieved only through constructive dialogue and normalization of bilateral relations,” Chen noted. Touching on Taiwan’s recent arms procurement deals with the United States, Chen said the ROC has purchased only defensive weapons for safeguarding its own national security and helping maintain regional peace. “We take no interest in arms race with mainland China, and our arms procurement is mainly designed to serve our basic defense demand,” Chen explained. He expressed his regret over Beijing’s refusal to renounce the use of force against Taiwan. In the past few years, Chen said, mainland China has deployed more than 300 short-range M-class guided missiles in its Fujian province which lies opposite Taiwan. Moreover, it has built new missile bases along its southeastern coast, with the capability of launching a massive-scale surprise missile attack on Taiwan. Chen complained that mainland China’s Taiwan-targeting military exercises have hurt the feelings of the people of Taiwan and would only hinder cross-strait rapprochement in the long run. Since his inauguration in May 2000, Chen said, he has on many occasions extended olive branches to mainland China. “It is regrettable that mainland China has cold-shouldered our goodwill appeal and has continued to squeeze our ‘breathing room’ in the international community,” he said. Despite Beijing’s attempted suppression, Chen said Taiwan will never be daunted or frustrated by such challenges. “We’ll continue to send out our goodwill messages and take concrete action to boost peaceful development of cross-strait ties,” he said, adding that if mainland China lowers its military threat to Taiwan, it would certainly contribute to peaceful resolution of all thorny cross-strait issues. In related news developments, influential members of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP’s) New Wave faction held a meeting in Taipei last week with senior executives of Taiwan chambers of commerce in major mainland cities, including Beijing, Dongkuan, Chungqing, Wuhan and Shenzhen. Party sources said Vice Premier Lai Ing-jaw and Straits Exchange Foundation Vice Chairman Shi Hwei-yow were also present at the meeting. It was the first time that the influential pro-independence DPP faction has forged contact with Taiwan investors in mainland China. The meeting reportedly has attracted attention from mainland officials in charge of Taiwan affairs. The topics discussed during the meeting remain unclear, but some DPP members present at the meeting said the gathering was mainly for forging friendship. As cross-strait relations have remained at a standstill, the tiny pro-unification New Party said yesterday it will organize a delegation to visit mainland China to help seek a breakthrough to the current limbo. New Party convener Hsieh Chi-ta, also a lawmaker, said the party will expand the function of its mainland affairs department and that Hsu Li-nung, a party stalwart and a former head of the military’s political warfare department, will head the expanded department. Moreover, Hsieh said, Hsu will head a delegation of New Party heavyweights to visit the mainland in the near future to discuss with mainland officials the possibility of establishing a new regular cross-strait dialogue mechanism. Hsieh said the current DPP government’s inability to seek any breakthrough to deadlocked cross-strait ties would only erode Taiwan’s strength and its bargaining chips vis-a-vis mainland China. Hsieh further said she is convinced that only the pro-unification New Party has the clout to help break the current cross-strait stalemate.