Mon, Jan 02, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chen to tighten cross-strait policies

NEW YEAR MESSAGE The president focused on the military threat posed by China, mentioning its missile deployment, as he announced changes to cross-strait policy

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

From left, Premier Frank Hsieh, Vice President Annette Lu, President Chen Shui-bian and Taipei Mayor Ma YIng-jeou attend the New Year flag-raising ceremony outside the Presidential Office yesterday. Ma attended the ceremony for the first time in his capacity as chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

PHOTO: LIU HSIN-DE, TAIPEI TIMES

In his New Year's address yesterday, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said that he would not bow to pressure from the opposition parties and China to relax his cross-strait policies, in a surprisingly strong speech that defied the expectations of pundits.

Chen reminded the public of China's strong ambition to annex Taiwan, and said that his administration's new mindset and course of action for future cross-strait economic and trade policies would adopt "active management, effective opening," rather than the "active opening, effective management" that has been in place since 2001.

While delivering his speech, which centered on the theme of "Democratic Taiwan: Thriving Onward," Chen apologized for his unsatisfactory past performance and vowed to "keep a firm stance while moving forward pragmatically" on cross-strait issues.

But Chen's clear signal that he would tighten cross-strait policies was at the heart of his message.

Citing the Chinese People's Liberation Army's deployment of 784 ballistic missiles that are targeting Taiwan, Chen said that China has aggressively expanded its military capability and is augmenting its combat readiness in a three-stage preparation for war against Taiwan.

Chen said that China has set the goals of establishing contingency-response combat capabilities by 2007 and building up combat capabilities for large-scale military engagement by 2010, to ensure victory in a decisive battle by 2015.

"In the so-called `carrot and stick' strategy China has employed against Taiwan, the `soft tactic' is a mere deception, but the `hard tactic' is real," Chen said.

Chen said that the Legislative Yuan's delay of the military procurement budget, the result of filibustering, has seriously impeded the progress of strengthening national defense capabilities and has also prompted the international community to express misgivings about Taiwan's resolve to defend itself.

In addition, Chen said that among his six major reform priorities, one of the most challenging will be the constitutional engineering project.

"I've seen the vigor of the constitutional reform movement in our civil society. I look forward to a civilian-drafted bill for `Taiwan's New Constitution' this year. Should conditions in Taiwanese society become sufficiently mature, who is to say that holding a referendum on the new Constitution by 2007 is impossible?" Chen said.

Chen said that Taiwan's existing cross-strait economic and trade policies have upheld the fundamental principle of "active opening, effective management" in accordance with a consensus reached at the Economic Development Advisory Conference held in 2001.

However, due to the complexities of cross-strait exchange and globalization, Chen said it was time for Taiwan to practically adjust related policies.

"The government must `actively' take on the responsibility of `management' in order to `effectively' reduce the risks of `opening.' The administration will focus on our long-term development, assume the role of a gatekeeper to guard our nation's economic security against foreseeable risks, and resist ingratiation or taking shortcuts," Chen said.

Stressing the importance of upholding "Taiwan consciousness," Chen said that both the governing and opposition parties have to work for the common interest for the sake of national security.

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