Wed, Dec 01, 2004 - Page 1 News List

US frets over plan for new constitution

PRIMARY INTERESTS The US State Department spokesman said again that Taiwan must not change the status quo with its constitutional reform plan


The US has cautioned President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to stick to his pledge not to include any moves toward independence in the new constitution he wants to put to a referendum in 2006.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on Monday urged Chen to adhere to the so-called "four noes," which he enunciated in his 2000 inauguration address and reiterated in his second inauguration speech in May.

"I think our view as stated is that his pledges were very, very important and need to be respected," Boucher told his regular daily press briefing.

Boucher's statement came as China has expressed increasing concern in recent weeks over plans for the Constitution, which has become a major campaign issue in the Legislative Yuan elections.

China's state-controlled media has said that Chen is trying to lead up to a declaration of independence, perhaps through the referendum process, and has threatened that Beijing would use force if he went ahead with such a plan.

"Our primary interest," Boucher said, "is in maintaining stability across the Taiwan Strait, and the United States is opposed to any unilateral steps that would change the status quo."

"We are opposed to any referendum that would change Taiwan's status or move toward independence," he said.

The "four-noes" refer to Chen's promise not to declare independence, not change the official name of Taiwan from the Republic of China, not to add the state-to-state model of cross-strait relations to the Constitution, not to hold a referendum to change the status quo on independence or unification with China and not to abolish the National Unification Guidelines.

"We appreciate President Chen's pledge and his subsequent reaffirmations of it," Boucher said. "We take these reaffirmations and that pledge very seriously, particularly as they apply to this referendum on a new constitution. "

He also repeated Washington's urging that Beijing and Taipei engage in dialogue, and reiterated that the Bush administration does not support Taiwan independence.

Boucher's comments came hours after news reports quoted former Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan (唐家璇) as warning that Chen's plan to write a new constitution could precipitate a crisis that could lead to armed conflict if the new constitution includes wording that alludes to the country as a national territory.

The Washington Times reported that Tang told a group of foreign reporters in Beijing that Chen wants to create "an atmosphere and propaganda" for Taiwan's independence. Tang expressed suspicion that Chen might use the Constitution to provoke a confrontation in advance of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, under the assumption that China would not attack Taiwan just before the games.

In his recent pronouncements about the planned constitution, Chen has repeatedly denied that it would include any provisions dealing with Taiwan's international status, a pledge that Hsu Shu-fen (許淑芬), the DPP's director of Chinese affairs, restated on Monday at a peace forum sponsored by the Foundation on International and Cross-Strait Studies.

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