Sat, Mar 20, 2004 - Page 5 News List

US promises it will work with whoever wins

`NO CHANGE` Officials from the US Department of State said that the Bush administration was not planning to alter its policy toward Taiwan at present

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER

The US State Department has denied reports that the Bush administration is preparing a review of its policy toward Taiwan should President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) be re-elected, saying the US is prepared to work with whomever voters pick for a peaceful resolution of cross-strait tensions.

"Taiwan is a vibrant democracy, and we support the exercise of democratic rights in Taiwan," department spokesmen Adam Ereli told reporters in Washington, denying that any policy review is in the works.

"As far as policy changes in the works, no, nothing is in the works," he said.

Responding to reports that the US is concerned over prospects for Chen's re-election, Ereli said, "This isn't about personalities, it is about policies. So the Taiwan people will have their way. They will elect the leaders that they believe best represent them."

"And we will work with those leaders in partnership for a peaceful resolution of the cross-strait tensions through dialogue," he said.

WAIT AND SEE

Ereli reserved comment about the referendum.

"Let's just wait and see," he said.

He refused to characterize the referendum as a failure of US efforts to block the poll, which Washington has said could affect the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

"I would characterize it as a process that we are working on with both sides to this dispute to ensure that it is resolved through dialogue and not as a result of unilateral action," he said.

Meanwhile, three dozen members of the US House of Representatives have issued an open letter to the people of Taiwan voicing their strong support for the referendum.

Some people view the letter as a rebuke to President George W. Bush, who effectively prevented Congress from supporting the referendum through a formal resolution of Congress.

The 23 million people of Taiwan "have earned the right to decide for yourselves the issues affecting your well-being and security," the letter said.

DEMOCRATIC RIGHT

"You have earned the right to hold exclusive responsibility for determining the future of Taiwan and to exercise democratic processes. This include holding referenda free from intimidation or threat of force from any country, including communist China," it said.

The letter, which was circulated only late last week, gained 36 signatories, nearly twice the number the authors had expected. The letter was written by Representative Peter Deutsch, a Democrat and Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican and sent to their colleagues for their signatures.

While the signature campaign was stopped so the letter could be publicized in time for today's elections, aides to Deutsch say lawmakers are still calling to join the list, and an "addendum" may be issued to add new names.

CHINESE OPPOSITION

The Chinese Embassy in Washington tried hard to squelch the effort, but congressional staffers said that backfired, serving instead to pull in additional signatories.

In Taipei, a half dozen Taiwanese-Americans from New York City in town to vote in the election, joined some 30 Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators in a pro-Chen rally in front of the Mitsukoshi department store across from the Taipei Main Train Station.

The group was part of a New York contingent numbering more than 300 who are in the country for the election, according to the group's spokesman, Abraham Hsu.

All of them, he said, are in favor of Chen.

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