President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday announced the content of his referendum plan, which is to ask the people of Taiwan whether they would support enhancing the nation's defensive capabilities as well as negotiations with China about establishing peace and stability.
"I would hereby like to announce the questions that will be put to the people of Taiwan for the peace referendum on March 20," Chen said during a pre-recorded TV speech last night.
"The People of Taiwan demand that the Taiwan Strait issue be resolved through peaceful means. The first question is: `If China refuses to withdraw the missiles it has targeted at Taiwan and to openly renounce the use of force against us, would you agree that the government should acquire more advanced anti-missile weapons to strengthen Taiwan's self-defense capabilities?'" Chen said.
"And the second question is: `Would you agree that our government should engage in negotiations with China about the establishment of a "peace and stability" framework for cross-strait interactions in order to build consensus and for the welfare of the peoples on both sides?'" the president continued.
According to a government official the wording of the president's referendum question was finalized over the past few days, and the official English translation has been sent to members of the US government.
The government official, who declined to be identified, said yesterday that it was not necessary to get approval from or to discuss the wording of the president's referendum question with the US.
"Since both countries have long-term friendships, we informed the US government, and we are waiting for our friend's reaction," the source said.
During yesterday's TV speech, Chen said that while he has fully abided by the "five noes" promise of his inauguration speech, China has been increasing the number of missiles targeted at Taiwan and has been intensifying its military preparations for a possible attack.
"China's purpose is unquestionably obvious -- they aim to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait through undemocratic and non-peaceful means, rather than through working with us to maintain stability in the region," Chen said.
He said this was why a "peace referendum" would be an effective preventive measure, as it would help to increase people's awareness of and readiness for such a threat, while actively seeking to maintain the status quo.
Chen said he was still committed to reopening dialogue with China, saying that he would invite Beijing's representative to visit Taiwan to resume cross-strait negotiations.
"If I assume this office as the 11th president of the Republic of China, I will continue to strive to the fullest of my abilities to maintain the status quo and ensure the sovereignty, dignity and security of our country," Chen said.
"Furthermore, on the basis of maintaining the status quo, I will continue the proposed reengineering of our Constitution. Within the shortest possible time frame, we aim to invite China to appoint a representative to meet with our appointed envoy -- mindful of the democratic choice that has been made by the people of Taiwan -- to commence negotiations on the establishment of a `peace and stability' framework for cross-strait interactions," the president said.
A top-ranking government official said yesterday that the major significance of Chen's two referendum questions is that the government will have a mandate from the people to draw up its budget, which has been a continued obstacle to the Democratic Progressive Party government in the Legislative Yuan for the past three years.