Sun, Dec 14, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Friends in Congress send letter to Bush


Leaders of the US Congressional Taiwan Caucus have urged US President George W. Bush to reconsider his opposition to a referendum in Taiwan that would allow its citizens to voice their opposition to China's military threat.

During his public briefing with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) last week, Bush warned President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), to resist making any unilateral moves toward independence, including holding a defensive referendum on missiles and other military threats by China toward Taiwan.

In a letter sent to the president, representatives Sherrod Brown, Steve Chabot, Dana Rohrbacher and Robert Wexler wrote that "the mounting threats and hostile actions taken by the PRC toward Taiwan underscore the volatility of the situation on both sides of the Taiwan Strait."

"The continued build-up of missiles and military exercises on China's southeast coast remind us that democratic Taiwan and its people face a constant and imminent threat from an authoritarian regime," they wrote.

The members said the administration's action signaled a victory for China at the expense of Taiwan's democratic reforms.

"The Bush administration's vocal opposition to any referendum in Taiwan would be seen as a great victory for China and a defeat for Taiwan's democratic reforms. It may seem like splitting hairs, but the language is important to our long-term interests in that region," said Brown, a co-founder of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus.

The Congressional Taiwan Caucus, which includes more than 120 members of Congress, has also led efforts to formalize support for Taiwan's efforts to gain recognition by international bodies, including the World Health Assembly and the UN.

"The defensive referendum as proposed by President Chen Shui-bian does not alter the status quo of cross-strait relations by seeking a declaration on independence. Rather, it is intended to express the immediate and legitimate concerns of the Taiwanese on the peace and security of the region," the letter said.

Citing Bush's "Three Pillars" speech in London on Nov. 19 that upheld the US' strong commitment to the global expansion of democracy, "We are deeply concerned that a vocal opposition to a Taiwanese referendum would send the wrong signal to the international community that the United States is not fully committed to expanding democracy," the letter continued.

Meanwhile, National Security Council Deputy Secretary-General Ko Cheng-heng (柯承恩) is currently in Washington to gain a first-hand understanding of the details of the recent meeting between Bush and Wen, sources said Friday.

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