Fri, Sep 07, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Bush warns on referendum being `blown up too big'

By Charles Snyderand Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN WASHINGTON AND SYDNEY

US President George W. Bush told his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) yesterday that the US did not want Taiwan's plan for a UN membership referendum "blown up too big," and that Washington would continue to "exert our good influence on the Taiwanese" to get President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) government to drop the referendum idea, the White House said.

Taiwan was the first topic of conversation when the two leaders met in Sydney on the sidelines of the APEC meeting, US National Security Council official Jim Jeffrey told a press briefing soon after the meeting.

"The president reiterated his position on Taiwan, reassuring Hu that his position had not changed," Jeffrey said.

In his conversation with Hu, Bush referred specifically to comments made by US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte last week, in which he described the referendum as a step toward a declaration of independence and a "mistake," warning that it could change the "status quo" across the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing officials were "pleased at the public reiteration of our position last week. We referred to that," Jeffrey said.

Bush let Hu know that "we are concerned very much about this step that Taiwan has undertaken," adding what appeared to be a subtle warning to China not to over-react or take advantage of the situation.

"We also don't want to see this blown up too big. We don't want to see anyone provoked by the actions of the Taiwanese," Jeffrey said. "So, for the moment we're going to stay with our position and continue to exert our good influence on the Taiwanese to see if we can change their position."

Earlier yesterday, Minister of Economic Affairs Steve Chen (陳瑞隆) and Minister of Finance Ho Chih-chin (何志欽) said they sent a protest letter to APEC hosts Australia after Taiwan was not invited to a foreign ministers' breakfast meeting held yesterday to discuss climate change and security issues.

"We are not happy with the arrangement and have expressed our discontent about not being invited to the foreign ministers' breakfast meeting," Steve Chen said. "As a member of APEC, we should be invited to all APEC activities."

The meeting, attended by all APEC members except for Taiwan and Hong Kong, discussed a convention to be held in Bali, Indonesia by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Since the meeting was held during the APEC forum, the Australian government should have invited Taiwan's delegate as well, Steve Chen said.

This is the third consecutive year that Taiwan's foreign minister has been absent from an APEC summit.

Being excluded from foreign ministers' meetings during APEC summits is expected, however, as Beijing constantly blocks the nation's foreign minister from such meetings.

"With pressure from China, we joined APEC under certain unreasonable conditions," Steve Chen said. "This is unfair."

See:

PRC tries to clean up image in Sydney

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