Tue, Nov 25, 2003 - Page 3 News List

No cross-strait crisis at present: Tsai

CHINESE RHETORIC The Mainland Affairs Council chief said that Beijing should stop speculating about what Taipei might mean and reopen negotiations instead

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite China's escalating verbal attacks on what it calls Taiwanese leaders' separatist attempts and threats to use military force, Main-land Affairs Council Chair-woman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday that she would not define the current cross-strait condition as "a crisis."

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) launched the latest salvo in an interview with The Washington Post, during which he declared the Chinese people will "pay any price" to safeguard China's unity.

Wen's rhetoric prompted opposition legislators to question Tsai during a budgetary session about how dangerous the cross-strait situation is.

"I do not define the current cross-strait condition as a crisis. The situation cannot be judged simply according to an individual's remarks," Tsai said.

But she acknowledged the situation requires close observation and communication with China.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Cho Po-yuan (卓伯源) asked Tsai whether President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) proposals to write a new constitution and implement referendums have the potential to "bilaterally change the cross-strait status quo."

In his Post interview, Wen cited both issues as evidence of the government's "stepped-up efforts at Taiwan independence."

Tsai, however, described Chen's proposals as part of the government's pursuit of a sounder democracy.

Opposition lawmakers demanded Tsai take steps to prevent the possible use of force across the Strait triggered by China's misunderstanding of the two issues.

In response, Tsai urged Beijing to reopen talks with Taipei.

She asked China to stop "sitting at home and speculating" about Taiwan's motives and invited Bei-jing to communicate with Taipei.

The substance and procedures of Chen's proposed constitutional reform "do not directly touch upon cross-strait problems," Tsai said.

"I am very willing to go to China for talks if they would grant me entrance," she said.

But she avoided giving a direct answer People First Party (PFP) Legislator Lee Ching-hua's (李慶華) question about whether Chen's referendum and constitutional plans contradict the president's "five noes" promise.

She told Lee he should review the issue by reading the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) brochures promoting its constitution and referendum ideas.

Asked whether Chen's constitutional reform plan will pave the way for the country to "rectify" its official title, the council chairwoman said: "The DPP's constitutional plan does not even mention the rectification of the country's official name."

Tsai told the lawmakers that no US officials had asked her about a possible change in Taiwan's official title during her recent visit to Washington to explain Taiwan's cross-strait policies and Chen's proposals.

"The US understands constitution reform and referendums are necessary steps for a nation to take to deepen its democracy," she said.

Tsai also said she had perceived a shift in the KMT's stance toward constitutional reform since she returned from the US.

All the political parties have to take responsibility if the campaign for next year's presidential election disrupts cross-strait stability, Tsai said, not just the DPP.

Tsai said the council will be closely watching Wen's upcoming trip to the US but declined to comment on whether she expects the US' cross-strait policy will change after his visit.

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