Wed, May 19, 2004 - Page 3 News List

US dismisses China's threats as `unhelpful'

POLICY A US State Department spokesman said that Washington opposes the use of force and urged Beijing to focus on a peaceful resolution of cross-strait tensions

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said on Monday the statement China issued on Sunday was "unhelpful," but did not deliver a US condemnation of it, saying only that the US opposes the use of force. The statement threatened that China would crush any attempt by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to pursue a policy that Beijing considers as moving toward independence.

Ereli emphasized the "constructive" portions of the statement and said "we would urge Beijing to focus on those positive elements that talk about how the two sides can move relations forward."

He also repeated that Washington's policy is that differences between the two sides "need to be resolved peacefully through dialogue, and that continues to be the direction that we urge both parties to take."

He also revealed that the Chinese Foreign Ministry called US Ambassador to Beijing Clark Randt on Sunday to "preview the statement" which was issued late that night.

In its statement, the Taiwan Affairs Office of China's State Council said that "relations across the Taiwan Strait are severely tested," and described Chen's policies as "aimed at dismembering China."

"The Taiwan leaders have before them two roads," the statement said. "One is to pull back immediately from their dangerous lurch towards independence ... The other is to keep following their separatist agenda to cut Taiwan from the rest of China and, in the end, meet their own destruction by playing with fire."

If Taiwan pursues independence, the statement warned, "the Chinese people will crush their schemes firmly and thoroughly at any cost."

Repeating earlier US statements, Ereli said there has been no change in US policy.

"We oppose the use of force, we oppose unilateral actions by either side that would change the status quo, and we continue to encourage both sides to engage in dialogue to peacefully address their differences," he said.

Ereli also reiterated the US' commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act.

"We'll continue to fulfill those commitments and to provide for Taiwan's defense," he said.

Ereli also declined to say whether Washington was getting a briefing from Taiwan on what Chen might say in his inaugural address tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a leading US human-rights official said on Monday that Taiwan's democratization can be held up as an example to the world despite the disputed presidential election, an unwieldy legislature and a polarized society.

Asked about that, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights Lorne Craner cited international recognition of Taiwan's democratic advances.

"I have had people from around the world tell me that they want to go to Taiwan and they want people from Taiwan to come to their country to tell them how they made the changes in Taiwan," Craner said at a press conference in which he introduced a State Department report on US efforts to fight human-rights violations around the world.

Recalling the changes in Tai-wan since the years of martial law under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Craner said he lived in Taiwan in 1982, "when, if you talked about independence for the island, you got arrested and thrown into jail."

"Today, the people that talk about independence for the island are running the country. So clearly over that period of time, a great deal of change, gradual change, has occurred in Taiwan," Craner said.

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