Thu, Nov 13, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Panelists see Taiwan-US relations growing firmer

TRILATERAL CONCERNS Participants said the US is sticking to its `one China' to placate Beijing, even though it is friendlier to Taiwan's government

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Recent developments in Taiwan-US relations show the US is moving toward a "one China, one Taiwan" policy but Washington will continue to insist it holds a "one China" policy, a visiting Chinese-American columnist said yesterday.

Frank Ching (秦家驄), senior columnist for the South China Morning Post, was a panelist at a conference titled "Democracy, Nationalism and Security in the Asia Pacific" hosted by the Institute for National Policy Research and the Brookings Institution.

China is very unhappy about the US' reception for President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) during his recent visit, Ching said, adding: "The Chinese people are not stupid and they have certainly noticed there are changes in the US policy toward Taiwan."

But the US administration will not admit it has changed, Ching said.

"China noted there are changes, but it would like the US to at least pay lip-service to the `one China' policy. What else can they do? They have very limited choice with Taiwan," Ching said.

The US apparently loosened its transit restrictions on Chen when he was in New York and when he was in Panama for that nation's independence celebrations, he shook hands with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and chatted with him briefly at a luncheon.

Li Weiyi (李維一), a spokesman for the Chinese Cabinet's Taiwan Affairs Office, strongly criticized Chen during a press conference in Beijing yesterday. Li said Chen wanted to sabotage China-US relations and accused him of approaching "the dangerous edge of Taiwan independence."

On Tuesday, Chen unveiled his timetable for a new constitution to his visitors from the Brookings Institution, most of whom are former US government officials and were panelists at yesterday's conference.

Richard Bush, former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and now director of Brookings' Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, said he didn't think Chen's setting a constitution timeline should have much impact.

"I believe Chen has laid out in a general way what the timeline was," Bush said, adding that all Chen told the Brookings group was dates for his timeline.

Bush said he believed Chen's call for referendum does reflect the desire of the people's will to be heard clearly.

But for Beijing, Taiwan's referendum which "touches upon sovereignty could be a problem," Bush said.

James Steinberg, a former deputy US national security advisor and Brookings' vice president for foreign policy studies, said Chen's constitutional plan is basically "a question of Taiwan's development of its democracy."

"It is largely something to be developed by Taiwan in terms of its internal organization," he said.

Steinberg said Chen certainly has indicated that Taiwan's independence was not the intention behind his constitutional reform.

"He is trying to help perfect Taiwan's democracy, which seems to be a very noble goal," Steinberg said.

Noting that he couldn't speak for either the US or Chinese governments about how they would react to Chen's timetable, Steinberg said: "Friends of democracy don't interfere with each other's democracy."

As to whether Taiwan-US ties have been substantially strength-ened by Chen's recent visit, both Bush and Steinberg said US policy toward both Taiwan and China has been consistent.

"As [National] Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said, we don't want to see any unilateral change in the status quo," Bush said.

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