Fri, Mar 05, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Taiwanese-American groups give Bush 9,000 letters


Representatives from seven organizations representing Taiwanese-Americans presented around 9,000 letters to US President George W. Bush Wednesday urging him to support the March 20 referendum, in return receiving what one member of the delegation felt was a sense of "tacit support" for the referendum.

The group spent an hour with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Randall Schriver delivering the letters, which were signed by US citizens of Taiwanese descent and their friends during a two-month signature campaign by the organizations, and discussing the referendum issue.

According to group members, Schriver agreed to deliver the letters to the White House and assured the group that the White House knew of the contents of the petition.

"I left with the impression that the referendum was enjoying tacit support by the US government," Bob Yang (楊英育), the chairman of the World United Formosans for Independence-USA and a leader of the group, told the Taipei Times, although he did not quote Schriver as saying that.

Schriver quoted a recent statement by Secretary of State Colin Powell as the definitive US policy toward the election, according to Yang. In that statement, delivered in answer to a question while addressing a Feb. 11 hearing of the House International Relations Committee, Powell said that Taiwan is a "democratic place," and "if they choose to have a referendum, they can have a referendum."

Powell also said the administration does not see the need for a referendum, and cautioned against actions to change the "situation" in the Taiwan Strait, although he did not use the phrase "status quo."

The most important message to come out of the group's meeting with Schriver is that the referendum was Taiwan's choice, Yang said.

The meeting also dwelt on US defense commitments to Taiwan. Yang quoted Schriver as saying that the commitment to provide defensive arms to Taipei is as strong as ever, although Washington is still concerned over Taiwan's lack of progress in committing funds to buy the weapons the US has promised.

In this, Schriver singled out the failure of the Legislative Yuan to approve adequate funds.

In the letter to Bush, dated Jan. 16, the signatories warned that US non-support for the referendum could have serious negative consequences for Taiwan and the region.

"It would be self-defeating for the US to pressure President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to abandon the referendum," the letter said.

"President Chen's disappointed supporters could abstain from voting en masse to protest his betrayal of democracy. The electoral victory of the KMT-PFP pan-blue alliance will most likely result in Taiwan's capitulation to China within a couple of years."

"This will terminate our [America's] role as the guarantor of peace in East Asia and usher in seminal turmoil in the region," the letter said.

The letter urged Bush to reaffirm that the status of Taiwan must be settled peacefully with the assent of its people, and urges him to bolster the US military presence in the Western Pacific in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, and the Pentagon's own recommendations, "to deter Chinese military action against Taiwan."

In a press conference prior to the Schriver meeting, the group criticized Bush's statements after meeting last December with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶).

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