Fri, Apr 23, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Presidential Office defends plan for new constitution

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) plan to enact a new constitution in 2008 is not a timetable for independence, the Presidential Office said yesterday.

"We'd like to make it clear to the public and the international community that the president has been making good on his `five noes' promise over the past four years," Presidential Office Spokesman James Huang (黃志芳) said yesterday.

The president's plan to rewrite the Constitution is designed to strengthen democracy, he said, adding that it will not change the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.

"The president has made it clear on various occasions that the new constitution is part of the nation's democratization process, not a timetable for independence," Huang said.

"The constitutional reform will proceed under the premise of maintaining the status quo across the Taiwan Strait," he said. "Our resolve to establish a peace and stability framework for cross-strait interaction hasn't changed."

Huang made the remarks in response to a warning by US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly at the US House of Representatives on Wednesday that Taiwan should not go too far in rewriting the constitution.

While pro-independence Chinese-language newspapers emphasized Kelly's praise for Taiwan's vibrant democracy, pro-unification media underscored the US government's opposition to Taiwan independence.

Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said Kelly's remarks were "positive" and "friendly," adding that he didn't see any change to the US government's cross-strait policy. He said the US was not concerned about Taiwan's democratic development, but instead about China's distorting Taiwan's democratization process by calling it a timetable for independence and using it as an excuse to use force against Taiwan.

"We will not allow China to unilaterally interpret cross-strait relations or the `one China' policy," Lin said.

Responding to the US House of Representatives' resolution to support Taiwan's bid to join the World Health Organization as an observer, Lin said that he was confident Taiwan stands a greater chance of joining the organization this year thanks to the US government's backing.

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