Tue, Oct 14, 2003 - Page 8 News List

US response clear and level-headed

By James Wang 王景弘

After having been demoted to an opposition party, the position of the alien political power -- the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) -- on foreign affairs has undergone a big change. Close to the US and opposing China in the past, the party now cozies up to China and opposes the US. While close to the US and opposing China, they used US and Chinese positions to frighten local forces. Now their position has reversed, but they still play the same game. They aren't even above distorting or making up facts to achieve their goal of blocking the development of democracy.

They treat the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) position on the referendum issue in this way, and bestow the same treatment on President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) call for a new constitution in 2006. Afraid that their own harangues against Chen won't carry any weight, they try to use Washington and Beijing statements to amplify them.

Beijing isn't muddle-headed and Washington even less so. Washington's response can only be described as downplaying such behavior, balanced and low key, avoiding interference in Taiwan's political wrangling instead of responding with great surprise or forceful interference.

In a question and answer session after a briefing on Sept. 29, US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher offered a complete assessment of Chen's call for a new constitution in 2006. Boucher's comment included the following three parts.

First, Boucher called Chen's statement an "individual campaign statement." This is due to the brilliance of both Chen and Washington. Chen made the statement at the DPP's anniversary celebrations, and provided a further explanation during a meeting of the DPP's Central Standing Committee. In other words, he clearly made these two statements in his capacity as DPP chairman and not in his capacity as president.

Having understood this point, Washington could naturally acknowledge them as Chen's stating his political opinion during a campaign, and as a vision for carrying out constitutional reform in order to realize democracy in Taiwan, rather than a policy to be immediately implemented.

Second, based on the definition of Chen's remarks as an "individual campaign statement," Boucher reiterated the US' stance that it "won't take a position on [Taiwan's] domestic politics." Competition in Taiwan's political process, how the parties attack each other and defend themselves, what choices voters make -- this is Taiwan's domestic business, and the US does not take a position on these issues.

Third, Washington made reservations for issues involving US interests. These are issues that the US feels are of fundamental importance to stability in the Taiwan Strait. The reservations Boucher cited are in fact the "four noes" that Chen pledged in his 2000 inaugural speech: "not to declare independence, not to change the name of Taiwan's government, not to add the state-to-state theory to the Constitution, and not to promote a referendum that would change the status quo on independence or unification."

Boucher said that "We have expressed our support and appreciation for that pledge in 2000, and his [Chen's] subsequent reaffirmations of it. And we would take it -- we continue to take it very seriously."

That was Washington's assessment. Anyone who necessarily must interpret it as "a warning" to Chen, a "deterioration in [US-] Taiwan relations," or as "creating trouble for the US" and other such nonsense, is not as cool-headed as are Washington officials. The US assessment mentions Chen's "four noes," but, more important, it doesn't "show concern" or "call for restraint," nor does it ask for "an explanation."

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