Citing a survey that suggests nearly 80 percent of Taiwanese are opposed to ultimate unification with China, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday said that ceasing the activity of the National Unification Council (NUC) and unification guidelines was in line with public opinion.
Chen made the remarks during an interview with Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun daily on Friday. He cited a recent public opinion poll as saying that those who support ultimate unification with China are in a minority in Taiwan.
The poll showed that 60 percent of those questioned preferred to maintain the cross-strait status quo, 17 percent supported independence and only 4 percent favored unification, Chen said.
"That is to say that 77 percent of the Taiwanese people oppose ultimate unification. Therefore, ceasing the activity of the NUC and the guidelines not only corresponds with the democratic spirit of power to the people, it also corresponds to the majority public opinion in Taiwan," Chen said in an unabridged interview transcript the Presidential Office released yesterday.
Chen reiterated comments made in his Lunar New Year address regarding a new constitution.
"It is not entirely impossible to push for a new constitution and ratify it through a referendum next year, as long as the social conditions in Taiwan are ripe and the public and congress have all agreed on the goal," he said.
The president also said that the constitutional reengineering project should be handled through the correct legal constitutional procedures, and would need to garner the support of three-quarters of legislators and be ratified by the public through a referendum.
"Any sovereignty-related issues that do not comply with such constitutional procedures, including a change of national title, flag and territory, will not be dealt with, as we think they are unhelpful to the maintenance of the [cross-strait] status quo," Chen said.
The Yomiuri yesterday reported that Chen is determined to draft a new constitution that better suits Taiwan's current situation.
The daily also said that the president had "declined to say if the new constitution would contain clauses that would change the status quo in Taiwan, including its official name, the Republic of China."
Major wire agencies and local newspapers yesterday also reported on the Yomiuri article. Local Chinese-language evening paper, the United Evening Express, ran an article under the headline "Chen is determined to draw up a new constitution by 2008."
Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) yesterday said the headline was too "sensational."
"The president did not make such a statement. Instead, the president said [in the interview] that he will stick ... to the basis for constitutional reform pronounced in his inauguration speech in 2004, and his New Year statement this year," Huang said.
"The president also said that if social conditions are ripe, then it is possible we can complete constitutional reform before 2008. This is about the ripeness of social conditions, not about the president being determined to push through the new constitution before 2008," he said.
In the interview, the president also confirmed that intelligence information indicated that China is gearing up preparations for an invasion of Taiwan.
"[China] hopes to consolidate its hardware for using force against Taiwan by 2006, complete a mass-scale preparation for war by 2010 and finish its preparations for a victorious war by 2015," Chen said.