Branding the National Unification Council (NUC) as the absurd product of a repressive past, President Chen Shui-bian (
"The unification council is a product of absurdity rendered in an absurd era," Chen said. "It violates the principle of popular sovereignty and deprives the people of Taiwan of their right to decide the future direction of our country."
Chen made the remarks yesterday while receiving Republican Representative Robert Simmons of Connecticut at the Presidential Office.
Claiming that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had modified its stance that unification with China was the only option and now recognized that independence was also an option, Chen said the council and unification guidelines should be formally abolished because their ultimate goal was to see a unified China.
In addition to considerations of democratic integrity, Chen said his proposal to scrap the council and guidelines also took national security into account.
Chen said strengthening the nation's defense capability would prevent its sovereignty from being distorted or degraded by China, as well as maintain the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. The government was seeking to prevent the status quo from being unilaterally changed by China's military, he said.
"If unification with China is set as the nation's ultimate goal and only choice, it is easy for some people to argue that we do not need the arms procurement plan," he said.
On the long-stalled arms procurement package, Chen said the government's stance on the matter was unchanged, and that the administration could be persuaded to pay for the items out of the regular defense budget.
"If opposition lawmakers have second thoughts about creating a special budget, we're willing to respect the opinion of the legislature's majority coalition and use the regular budget [to pay for the arms package]," he said. "We'd be delighted to see the budget have the opportunity to be debated and, most importantly, approved."
Stating that the government's request for the three items in the arms package was made long before the Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2000, Chen called on opposition parties to put national security first.
Chen said that it was the government's responsibility to prevent China from posing a threat to regional peace and stability, and his administration was therefore determined to boost defense spending to up to 3 percent of GDP by 2008. To that end, defense expenditure would account for 2.85 percent of GDP next year, he said.
Vice President Annette Lu (
"We've put up with it for six years. I think that should be enough," she said.
Lu also called on Washington to concentrate on China's military buildup instead of Taiwan's domestic affairs.
Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, called Chen Shui-bian's plan to scrap the unification council "a dangerous sign of an escalation in Taiwan separatists' activities."
He was quoted as making the remark in an interview with China's official Xinhua news agency yesterday.
In response, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday said in a press release that "Taiwan's future has to be decided by the 23 million people of Taiwan, and in keeping with mainstream opinion in Taiwan."