Rebuffing US criticism, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday said a planned referendum on a UN bid was not an election ploy or a provocative act but a means to safeguard the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and ensure Taiwan's democracy.
"There are other proposals such as Taiwan independence, a name change and a new constitution," he said. "We could have put them before the people, but we didn't because we paid attention to US concerns and their interest and also ours. We do not want our good intentions to be mistaken."
Chen made the remarks in an interview published in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. He gave the interview on Wednesday.
"Even loving husbands and wives quarrel sometimes," Chen said, adding that Taiwan cherished its friendship with the US and saw its criticism of the proposed referendum as "well-meaning."
"The United States has its interest, while we have ours. Sometimes the two do not correspond and sometimes they even clash," he said.
"We will do our best to find common ground and reach a consensus," he said.
Chen was referring to comments made by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Thomas Christensen on Wednesday.
Describing the planned referendum as a "bad public policy initiative" that was "wrapped in the flag of democracy," Christensen said the initiative was the "apparent pursuit of name change" and therefore, made it "appear to us to be a step intended to change the status quo."
He said the referendum was a "frontal assault with no hope of changing Taiwan's actual status on the international stage, while increasing cross-strait tensions and alienating potential supporters of Taiwan's increased international space."
Christensen's remarks were the latest condemnation from the US.
Earlier this month, Dennis Wilder, senior director for East Asian affairs at the US National Security Council, said that the nationhood of Taiwan was an undecided issue and that Taiwan was therefore not qualified to become a member of the international body.
US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said on Aug. 27 that Washington opposed the referendum plan because it views such activity as a move toward a declaration of independence.
Chen said the referendum was a necessary means to protect the "status quo" in the Taiwan Strait.
"I believe the US government and President [George W.] Bush would have done the same, if not more, if it were the Taiwanese government and he the president of the country," Chen said. "It is not about the election, it is an opportunity for the people of Taiwan to think about a very important and serious issue concerning Taiwan's future."
Chen told members of the European Parliament during a video conference yesterday afternoon that it would be a giant step backward for civilization if Taiwan is denied UN membership.
Chen called on the European Parliament to denounce the UN Secretariat's interpretation of UN Resolution 2758 and its abuse of power in rejecting Taiwan's UN application.
Nicholas Dunlop, secretary-general of e-Parliament who hosted the event, promised to urge the European Parliament to condemn the UN Secretariat.
Calling the US Taiwan's "loyal ally" and "best friend," Chen said he was sorry to hear US officials declare that Taiwan or the Republic of China (ROC) was not a state because this did not tally with the facts.