Hsieh backs constitutional retaliation

UPPING THE ANTE: China is still being coy on details of its 'anti-secession' law, but the premier said there was already enough known to justify a strong response

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

Wed, Mar 09, 2005 - Page 1

In response to yesterday's release of new details on China's "anti-secession" law, Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said that if China passes a law that poses an immediate danger to Taiwan and includes Taiwan in its territory, he would support amending the Constitution to counter the proposed legislation.

But Hsieh said the government would abide by the Constitution before any amendment is made and that the Executive Yuan would not itself move to revise the Constitution.

"The government has no reason to oppose [adverse] reaction to China's planned legislation because China will be held responsible for the consequences," he said.

An explanation yesterday of the draft law by Wang Zhaoguo (王兆國), vice-chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, provided a first glimpse of the bill's contents since it was first proposed in December. It is almost certain that the bill will be passed on Monday.

While the draft law's text has yet to be revealed in full, Wang made clear yesterday that Beijing reserved the right to implement "non-peaceful" means to resolve the cross-strait stalemate.

"Let us be absolutely clear that safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity is the core interest of our country ... We have never forsworn the use of force. No sovereign state can tolerate secession and every sovereign state has the right to use necessary means to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity," Wang said yesterday, according to the state mouthpiece, the People's Daily.

Wang stressed however that "so long as there is a glimmer of hope for peaceful reunification, we will exert our utmost to make it happen."

No details

Wang failed to list the circumstances that could result in the use of force, saying only that "non-peaceful means and other necessary measures" would be used "in the event that the `Taiwan independence' forces should act under any name or by any means to cause the fact of Taiwan's secession from China, or that major incidents entailing Taiwan's secession from China should occur, or that possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted."

Wang said the law would authorize the State Council and the Central Military Commission to decide on and then implement "non-peaceful means and other necessary measures, and promptly report to the Standing Committee of the NPC," the People's Daily said.

Wang's careful choice of words was noteworthy. He distinguished between "Taiwanese compatriots" and "Taiwanese independence forces," and repeatedly referred to "non-peaceful means and other necessary measures," avoiding direct references to military action.

"It needs to be stressed here that should the `Taiwan independence' forces insist on going their own way and leave us with no other option but to employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures, such means and measures would be completely targeted against the `Taiwan independence' forces rather [than] in any way against our Taiwan compatriots," Wang said.

Beijing also offered an explanation of the "status quo," saying the cross-strait situation was a remnant of the civil war and that the problem was a domestic one.

"The Taiwan question is one that is left over from China's civil war of the late 1940s. Solving the Taiwan question and achieving China's complete reunification is China's internal affair. On this question, we will not submit to any interference by outside forces," Wang said.

Taiwanese officials lodged strong protests against the legislation, calling the proposed "anti-secession" law a "blank check for the military."

Rejection

The Mainland Affairs Council rejected Beijing's description of the "status quo," however, countering with its own description.

"The status quo across the Taiwan Strait is this: The Republic of China is a sovereign and independent country, and neither side of the Strait falls under the jurisdiction of the other," it said. "Taiwan is not a part of the People's Republic of China ... this is unacceptable," council Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) told reporters yesterday.

"China admits that this bill will affect not only Taiwan, but also any foreigners residing in Taiwan as well," Chiu said, repeating the council's warning that the bill would destabilize the region.

Asked whether the government planned to take any concrete measures to counter Beijing's legislation, Chiu appealed to the international community for support.

"We have already lobbied the international community several times ... if China should implement measures that are unacceptable to the international community, then I think it will take moves to oppose China," he said.

The council rejected renewed requests from Beijing for Taiwan to accept the "one country, two systems" model, saying it was "illusory and degrading."

In Beijing, Wang said the law would ensure "the two sides may consult and negotiate on officially ending the state of hostility between the two sides, mapping out the development of cross-[strait] relations, steps and arrangements for a peaceful reunification, the political status of the Taiwan authorities, the Taiwan region's room for international operations that are compatible with its status."

The council responded by saying that efforts at improving cross-strait exchange and dialogue in the past five years would be obliterated.

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) yesterday fired back by saying Taiwanese would tell the world of China's attempt to sabotage the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

She urged the world to denounce China's actions and pressure it against enacting the law.

"Resolving disputes peacefully is a norm that the international community has adopted in the 21st century," Lu said, before attending the DPP's central standing committee yesterday.

"Any non-peaceful act that attempts to resolve a dispute violates international law and international norms," Lu said.

Japanese government spokesman Hiroyuki Hosoda said yesterday that Tokyo was concerned about China's "anti-secession" legislation.

"We do have concerns about the possibility that it will affect cross-strait relations," Hosoda told a press conference in Tokyo.

His comment followed objections on Sunday by Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) to "meddling" in China's affairs.

"Japan and the United States both want a peaceful resolution and we only reaffirmed that," Koizumi said.

The US stance on the legislation is that it will not be beneficial to cross-strait stability, said Victor Chin (秦日新), director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs's Department of North American Affairs, yesterday.

Government officials have exchanged opinions with their US counterparts on the legislation since late January and have expressed their concern about the eventual impact of the law on stability and peace in the Taiwan Strait and in the Asia-Pacific region, Chin said at a news conference.

Chin noted that both the US spokesman and other officials have expressed their views on the legislation from different angles, adding that Washington has said it is unnecessary for Beijing to enact such a law.

Additional reporting by Ko Shu-ling and Jewel Huang