Fri, Sep 03, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Liaison blasts Republican `error'

SUBTLE CHANGE The Republican convention has decided to affirm the existence of `one China' instead of only recognizing the Chinese perspective on the issue

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The Democratic Progressive Party's liaison officer in Washington, Michael Fonte, has taken issue with the Republican Party's revised description of the US "one China" policy, calling it an "egregious error" that misrepresents Washington's long-term position.

In the platform approved on Monday by the party's presidential nominating convention in New York, the party asserted that "the United States government's policy is that there is one China," a subtle but important change from its 2000 platform, which said that "America has acknowledged the view that there is one China."

While the new document qualifies its statement by asserting that the policy is "reflected in" the three communiques signed by Washington and Beijing in 1972, 1978 and 1982, along with the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, Fonte told the Taipei Times that the statement is still incorrect.

"It is not US policy," he said. "US policy is that we acknowledge the Chinese position that there is one China and Taiwan is a part of China," he said. "While we acknowledge the Chinese position, we demand, and our policy is, that there should be a peaceful, mutually acceptable resolution of the issue of what `one China' is."

He called the difference in wording between the 2000 and 2004 platforms a "very important distinction," because, despite the qualification, "the statement itself is pretty flat: there is one China. That is not the US position."

Fonte noted the criticism the Democratic Party received in July when its platform omitted any reference to the Taiwan Relations Act, and he called for detractors to also criticize the Republicans for its "one China" statement.

"Democrats in certain quarters of the press have been roundly denounced by some groups for not saying anything about the [Taiwan Relations Act]. Well, if you're going to do that, to be even-handed you have to point out the fact that [the Republican statement] is not an error of omission -- it's an error of commission," Fonte said.

Asked why he thought the change had been made, he said he could only "speculate" that "somebody really blew it," since the platforms are carefully thought through before being adopted.

"I don't understand how they could have made such an egregious error," he said.

The Bush administration has never clearly defined its "one China" policy, although it has steadfastly defended it.

The administration's most authoritative and extensive recent statement of policy came on April 21, in testimony by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia James Kelly before a House International Affairs Committee hearing on the 25th anniversary of the Act.

In his written testimony, Kelly said, the US "remains committed to our one China policy," based on the three Communiques and the Act.

But when asked to define the policy, Kelly was non-committal.

"In my testimony," he allowed, "I made the point `our one China,' and I didn't really define it, and I'm not sure I very easily could define it."

"I can tell you what it is not. It is not the one-China policy or the one-China principle that Beijing suggests, and it may not be the definition that some would have in Taiwan," he said.

"But it does convey a meaning of solidarity of a kind among the people on both sides of the straits [sic] that has been our policy for a very long time." he added.

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