Wed, Mar 17, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Chen says France is `problematic'

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

A pan-green supporter kisses a Chen Shui-bian doll as he watches Chen canvassing for votes on the streets of Taichung yesterday. The DPP said yesterday it would focus on building a Taiwanese consciousness in the final days of the campaign.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday blasted France for siding with China and opposing Taiwan's democratic referendum in an effort to sell weapons to Beijing's expanding military.

"France is a problematic country," Chen told supporters at a rally in Taipei City's Neihu district.

"In order to sell arms to China, France took the lead among countries of the EU to lift the EU's arms embargo on China," he said.

"French President Jacques Chirac even spoke out against Taiwan's referendum and was willing to be used by China," Chen said.

Chen yesterday said China had conducted joint naval exercises with France off China's eastern coast in order to sway Taiwan's presidential election.

He urged voters to insist on the determination to walk "Taiwan's road paved with democracy, freedom and peace."

"Although China has said it has no interest in Taiwan's presidential election, we've seen it conduct a joint naval exercise with France. China even claimed that the exercise was unprecedented as it was the largest military exercise China had ever taken part in with a foreign country. The military exercise was aimed entirely at Taiwan's election," Chen said.

Chen urged the public to "walk a Taiwanese road, a democratic and free road" and to "dismiss China's military threat."

Chen said Taiwan's democratic road had been littered with obstacles.

"In 1996, China fired missiles into the Taiwan Strait to threaten Taiwanese voters, but former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) still took 54 percent of the vote and won the election. In 2000, China launched a war of words, threatening the voters with a war if they voted for me, but I still won the election.

"This year, China has used the same strategy. So, the people of Taiwan, you must still have faith in me, and we must not give in to China's threat," Chen said.

First lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) said Taiwan's referendum was the most important issue of the presidential election as far as the international community was concerned because it would signal a change to the military balance in the Strait.

"The referendum gives the people of Taiwan the power to stand up to China's military threat," Wu said.

Wu said China had announced that its military budget would increase by a double-digit figure, an announcement which led to a warning from the US that China not use force to affect the stability of the Strait. Japan and South Korea had also expressed concern regarding the growth of China's military buildup, Wu said.

Wu said she was more worried about the results of the referendum than about Chen's re-election.

"If Taiwan's referendum is not qualified, Taiwan will lose face in the international community," Wu said. "The international media will interpret the failed referendum as a debacle of Taiwanese people's solidarity. How could we persuade the world to help us if we even lost faith in ourselves?" Wu said.

The rally was one of two held in Taipei last night. The other was held in Panchiao. The DPP hopes to heat up election passions in the Taipei area, where the party still lags behind the pan-blue alliance.

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