Fri, Jan 09, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Analyst says that US will accept Chen's referendum

William Kristol, chairman of the Project for a New American Century, a US thick tank, and also the editor of the influential Washington-based political magazine 'The Weekly Standard,' is in Taipei for the US-Japan-Taiwan Trilateral Strategic Dialogue conference, Recognized as one of the US' leading political analysts, Kristol spoke to 'Taipei Times' reporter Stephaine Wen on the current status of the US-Taiwn relationship and the prospect of a new US policy on Taiwan

By Stephaine Wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

William Kristol, editor of 'The Weekly Standard' and a well-known foreign policy analyst, speaks on US-Taiwan relations at the US-Japan-Taiwan Trilateral Strategic Dialogue conference in Taipei on Wednesday.

PHOTO: STEPHAINE WEN, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: No doubt you've been asked about the defensive referendum issue. Now, the content and wording of the defensive referendum are not yet finalized. When the referendum is finalized at the end of this month, and should the content not seek to affect the status quo, do you think the US administration will support it?

William Kristol: I think the US administration will accept it. I think that is an important distinction. Taiwan is a democracy and the US is a democracy. Taiwan should make its own decisions about referendums on matters that the US really shouldn't pass judgements on and intervene in, unless it crosses some line, unless it changes the fundamental premise of the US-Taiwan relationship or causes policy troubles for the US. But this is a defensive referendum, it doesn't challenge the status quo, it doesn't involve independence. And it seems certain to happen.

[President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁)] will go ahead with the referendum and he will decide on the language. I hope he decides sooner than later because I think the uncertainty does some damage. People who don't wish the US-Taiwan relationship well can put a negative interpretation on what's going to happen.

Once we have the language I think everyone will see that it is defensive, and there is nothing to be alarmed about.

I think the US administration will say, `Fine, go ahead with the referendum.' I don't think you should expect the US administration to praise it, but I think they will accept it. And I think they will tell Asia that any use of force is unacceptable.

TT: According to an article a few days ago, the Presidential Office thinks that the US administration is less concerned about the defensive referendum now than the new constitution which Chen has proposed, because it is closer to the presidential election in US. What is your view on that?

Kristol: Well, I think now we should get over the misunderstandings on the defensive referendum. I think you should get your election done and we should get our election done.

I think there has to be a general rethinking of US policy, or the "one China" policy that was left over from another era. Taiwan was not a democracy when the world was a different place an era ago.

It's time for fresh thinking. But I think that is the agenda for 2005 more than for 2004.

I think the US administration will aim to keep things stable and Taiwan will progress with its democracy. But the question of looking into the future, at whether [the US'] China policy still makes sense, I don't think it's an issue that people will want to address this year really.

TT: So, say Chen gets re-elected and he has already proposed a new constitution which will require a reconsideration of the structure of Taiwan...

Kristol: I think that will force us then to have some fresh thinking in 2005. And that will be a healthy thing.

You can't feed the past. And you shouldn't try to. I don't think that's a debate we have to have in the next two or three months. I think that will become a big issue in 2005 and 2006.

The Bush administration will end up deciding that of course Taiwan is entitled to have a new constitution.

It's ridiculous for Taiwan to have a Constitution from 50 years ago which is not suited to the current Taiwan. I think the US will be happy to work with Taiwan whenever we are needed but I don't think we are going to have a problem with a new constitution.

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