The government's referendum proposal is causing difficulties in its relations with the US and great efforts are needed to iron out discrepancies between the ways each country views the issue, Taiwan's top representative to the US said yesterday.
With only 81 days to go before the "defensive referendum" proposed by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), it has become urgent to correct the misunderstandings resulting from the vote, said Chen Chien-jen (程建人), head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington.
"I told my colleagues we are facing an unprecedented situation. Our pressure, burden and workload have increased a lot. But if we can handle the situation properly, we will make a great contribution to our country," he said.
The US disapproves of the two issues Chen Shui-bian proposed for the referendum to be held with the presidential election in March -- whether China should remove 496 missiles aimed at Taiwan and whether it should renounce the use of force against Taiwan.
Returning to Taipei on Sunday, Chen Chien-jen presented a report on Taiwan's ties with the US, its most important ally, in the legislature yesterday.
The envoy said he would be meeting with the president to discuss "how to solve difficulties in Taiwan-US relations caused by the referendum" and the "worst scenario" should the issue not be appropriately dealt with.
In their question-and-answer sessions with Chen Chien-jen, legislators from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP) expressed doubt over whether Taiwan could salvage its ties with the US, which they said had been shattered by the referendum.
"I am confident we can settle the referendum issue with the US," Chen Chien-jen replied, "and I believe `the worst scenario' will not happen."
Chen Chien-jen, saying he was "reasonably optimistic" about solving the referendum issue with the US, declined to explain what he meant by the "worst scenario."
KMT Legislator Sun Kuo-hwa (
Chen Chien-jen responded that if such an attack took place, the US would definitely get involved in Taiwan's defense in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act. But he did not specify whether the US assistance would involve military intervention.
He said US President George W. Bush's rebuke of Chen Shui-bian during his meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (
The US administration decided Bush should make the remarks after its communications with Taiwan about the referendum failed to bring constructive results, according to Chen Chien-jen.
"The US regards the referendum as a very serious issue," he said.
But he noted that Bush's comment that the US would do "whatever it takes to help Taiwan defend itself" still stood.
China attempts to influence Taiwan through Washington, but "US officials are clever and will not easily give in to China's pressure," Chen Chien-jen said. The US' national interest is the first priority in its consideration of many issues, he added.
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