Sun, Jul 27, 2003 - Page 1 News List

But Chinese officials warn US of future strife

CAUTION NEEDED China said that any referendum in Taiwan was an unacceptable move toward an eventual vote on independence


China has warned Taiwan again through the US not to hold a referendum to seek independence, saying it would trigger a crisis in cross-Strait ties, Taiwanese news reports said yesterday.

Two Chinese envoys made the warning when they met US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in Washington DC on Monday, Taiwanese radio and newspapers said, quoting US State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker as saying on Friday.

The two enjoys, Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) and Zhou Mingwei (周明偉), director and deputy director of the Chinese State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, told Armitage that Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) insistence on holding a referendum was a gradual form of seeking independence for Taiwan.

"By doing that, Taiwan will cross the red line of China's tolerance and will cause regional tension. China will not sit idle," Chen and Zhou told Armitage.

Armitage was expected to pass on China's warning to a Taiwanese delegation led by Presidential Secretary General Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) yesterday, Taiwanese press said.

This is the second time in two month Chinese officials have warned Taiwan through the US not to hold a referendum on Taiwan's future.

On June 1, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), while attending the G8 summit in Evian, France, told US President George W. Bush that China would not sit idle if Taiwan held a referendum to decide its future.

President Chen plans to hold a referendum on nuclear power and WHO membership in March, the same month Taiwan is scheduled to hold its presidential election. Chen has said he will seek a second four-year term in next year's election.

Meanwhile, Chiou and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) gave separate briefings in Washington on Friday to researchers from two US think tanks on Taiwan's proposed referendum.

Although the two briefings at the Brookings Institution and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, respectively, were closed to the press, some of the US experts on Chinese affairs said afterward the briefings were helpful in easing their misgivings on the referendum issue.

An anonymous source said the Taiwan delegation explained the reasons behind wanting to hold a referendum as well as fielded questions from US experts regarding the referendum process, how the issues were chosen, how the questions on the ballot will be worded, and what effects the referendum will have.

The source said the US experts were not opposed to the idea of a referendum in Taiwan but were concerned about its possible political impact on Washington-Beijing-Taipei relations. They informed Chiou that Washington would not like to see any crisis straining ties at this time and that a referendum in Taiwan could possibly trigger such a crisis.

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