Thu, Oct 16, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Rice urges continuity in Taiwan Strait status quo

SINO-AMERICAN SUMMIT US President George W. Bush will meet with his Chinese counterpart Sunday as part of his week-long trip to Asia and Australia

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Ahead of a US-China meeting Sunday in Bangkok, the George W. Bush administration has again cautioned both sides of the Taiwan Strait not to change the status quo.

"It is our very strong belief that nobody should try unilaterally to change the status quo here," National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told reporters at a briefing in Washington.

"There must be a peaceful resolution of the cross-strait issue," Rice said, in answer to a question during a briefing on Bush's upcoming trip to Asia.

"And so the United States will continue to remind all parties that that is the position of the United States government and that it is the position to which we expect everyone to adhere," she said.

She also reiterated the US' "one China" policy and said the administration is "basing our policies on the three communiques. And we, of course, always remind people that we also have obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act to help Taiwan defend itself."

While for the Americans, the situation in North Korea, the ongoing war on terror and such trade issues as the value of the Chinese yuan against the US dollar are expected to be the main issues of concern, the Chinese side is expected to put emphasis on cross-strait relations, if recent bilateral contacts are a guide.

After a period in which Taiwan appeared to take a back seat to other issues, Chinese leaders in recent meetings with the US have given strong emphasis to Taiwan, according to US officials.

The change in emphasis seems to have dated to the visit of Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) to Washington late last month, in which he met with Bush as well as a Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Rice.

Li, the former Chinese ambassador to Washington and a prominent hawk on Taiwan, put great emphasis on the Taiwan issue as a first priority during his meetings, US officials told the Taipei Times.

The same emphasis has been echoed in every contact since, they say.

"It's always Taiwan, Taiwan, Taiwan," one official said.

The shift appears to be in response to President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) announcement of plans to hold various referendums, and his pledge to write a new constitution in 2006, plus his recent reiteration of his "one country on each side" of the Strait policy.

Last Sunday, for instance, Li and Powell talked by phone to discuss the issues surrounding the upcoming Bush-Hu meeting.

Official Chinese media reports on the conversation gave Taiwan greater emphasis than would appear to have been warranted by the other issues dominating the coming summit.

Li said he "appreciates US reiteration of sticking to the `one China' policy, three China-US joint communiques and the opposition to the independence of Taiwan during his recent visit to the United States," a Chinese Foreign Ministry report said.

"Li expressed his hope that the United States consistently keeps its promises and handles well various issues related to the Taiwan [sic], and safeguards the healthy momentum of bilateral ties," the report said.

The report quoted Powell as agreeing with Li's views on the "one China" policy, the three communiques and opposition to Taiwan independence.

The Bush administration has not commented on the Li-Powell phone conversation.

Bush and his party, which will include a large number of senior trade and foreign policy officials, will spend about a week in East Asia and Australia. He will arrive in Tokyo tomorrow and leave for Singapore on Saturday.

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