Sun, Mar 28, 2004 - Page 1 News List

White House gives Chen official congratulations

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN WASHINGTON

The US congratulated President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on his re-election Friday, some seven hours after the Central Election Commission formally declared Chen the victor in last Saturday's balloting.

The statement, issued by the White House shortly after noon, Washington time, contained an urgent call for calm in the face of the violence that has followed the election and the threat of violence in yesterday's planned protest march, and reiterated the US commitment to retain "close unofficial ties with the people of Taiwan." It also urged stability in the Taiwan Strait.

The statement was released by the White House from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where President George W. Bush was unveiling a new domestic home ownership scheme.

"We join the American people in congratulating the people of Taiwan on the successful conclusion of their March 20 presidential election," the statement began. "Taiwan's Central Election Commission on March 26 officially proclaimed that Mr. Chen Shui-bian has won re-election, and we congratulate Mr. Chen on his victory."

Turning to the uncertainties that continue to surround the election results in view of the challenges posed by the pan blue side, and the danger of a reaction from Beijing, the White House sought to ease the tensions.

"We reject calls for violence, which threatens the very democratic principles to which we and the people of Taiwan are committed," it said.

"The maintenance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the welfare of the people of Taiwan remain of profound importance to the United States."

"To advance these goals, the United States will fulfill its obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act," it said.

The act, enacted after Washington switched diplomatic relations to Beijing, among other things commits Washington to sell weapons to Taiwan and respond should China take hostile military action against Taiwan.

"It falls on Taiwan and Beijing," the White House statement said, "to build the essential foundations for peace and stability by pursuing dialogue through all available means and refraining from unilateral steps that would alter Taiwan's status."

China on Friday issued its most specific comments on the election, warning Taiwan that it would "not look on unconcerned" if the violence in Taiwan got out of control. In his regular press briefing Friday, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher refused to comment on the Chinese warning.

But he said Washington is in contact with China "all the time" on various issues.

The White House congratulatory statement pledged Washington to "continue to maintain close unofficial ties with the people on Taiwan through the American Institute in Taiwan in accordance with our one China policy, as embodies in the Taiwan Relations Act, and our three Joint Communiques with the People's Republic of China."

The communiques were issued in 1972 after President Nixon's ice-breaking trip to Beijing, in 1978 when Washington recognized Beijing, and in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan.

The Congressional Taiwan Caucus in the House of Representatives, and the Senate Taiwan Caucus are understood to have drafted statements of congratulations, but could not finish them in time to issue them Friday. They plan to issue them early next week.

American Institute in Taiwan Chairperson Therese Shaheen sent congratulations Friday to President and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) for their re-election, according to Taiwan's representative office in Washington.

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