Sat, Dec 20, 2003 - Page 1 News List

US links Taiwan's democracy, stability

WHITE HOUSE COMMENTS A spokesman said Bush's priority was to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait in order to protect democracy in Taiwan

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The George W. Bush administration pledged its support to Taiwan's democracy on Thursday, arguing that its preoccupation with retaining stability in the Taiwan Strait is aimed at doing just that. At the same time, the administration reiterated its commitment to Taiwan's security.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan made those points in answer to a question at his regular daily press briefing about whether there is any contradiction in Bush's commitment to democracy and freedom worldwide and his opposition to a referendum planned by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) opposing China's missile buildup aimed at Taiwan.

"The president's priority is to preserve peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait in order to safeguard Taiwan's democracy, to promote the spread of personal freedoms in China and spare the region the scourge of war," McClellan said.

"We support Taiwan's democracy, as we do others around the world," he said.

He was responding to a question about comments made by Bush in a proclamation last week declaring Dec. 10 Human Rights Day and the following week as Human Rights Week.

In his proclamation, Bush stated, "freedom is the right of mankind and the future of every nation. It is not America's gift to the world; it is God's gift to every man and woman who lives in this world."

McClellan said these words are not inconsistent with Bush's strong warning to Chen during a press briefing with visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) after their Oval Office meeting last week that he opposes Chen's decision to hold the referendum as a threat to Strait peace and security.

"The president's uncompromising position on Taiwan security is the clearest proof of his administration's commitment" to Taiwan democracy, McClellan said.

"And the president made it clear to Premier Wen that the United States would fulfill its obligations to help Taiwan defend itself, as called for under the Taiwan Relations Act," he said.

He noted that Bush during his meeting with Wen said Washington would "oppose any unilateral decisions by either China or Taiwan," to change the status quo.

Bush and Wen held a 40-minute private meeting on Dec. 9 and then the two continued meetings with aides through an official luncheon that day.

Taiwan was one of the key issues in the meeting, as Wen pressed Bush to oppose the referendum and other recent actions by Chen that Beijing considers efforts toward "splittism," or independence.

While it was not clear what, if any, concessions Bush made, his comments aimed directly at Chen during a brief press availability after the 40-minute meeting were the strongest and most authoritative comments against Chen's actions to have come out of the administration.

In the wake of criticism engendered by those comments, especially by Bush's conservative supporters, administration spokesman and officials have taken pains to reiterate US support for Taiwan.

But they have not backed away from Bush's basic criticism, or altered the administration's primary objections to anything that would upset the delicate balance in the Strait that could interfere with Bush's other foreign policy involvements, such as Iraq, the war on terrorism, and North Korea.

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