Taiwan is a strong and enduring supporter of American values, and will not become a liability for the US, President Chen Shui-bian (
"Taiwan's success story is most certainly an asset for the US, and Taiwan will never be a burden to the US," Chen told a delegation from the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP), a US think tank.
The delegation was headed by its president, George Schwab.
Chen told the delegation that he, the government and the people would do whatever they could to safeguard the country's hard-won democratic achievements and economic prosperity.
"Taiwan will not only refrain from taking unilateral action to change the peaceful cross-strait status quo, but will also do its utmost to prevent this status quo from being unilaterally changed," Chen said.
Chen said the recent agreement with China on direct charter flights during the Lunar New Year holiday represented good progress in cross-strait communication and that he was "gratified" by the outcome of the negotiations.
"The negotiations paved a good foundation for future cross-strait negotiations. The launch of the Lunar New Year charter flights is a point of departure for normalizing cross-strait relations," Chen said. "It also serves as an opportunity to open the door again for cross-strait negotiations."
Chen referred to his New Year's address, which said that the time was right for dialogue and consultation, adding that he was working to bring about cross-party reconciliation in the wake of last year's bitterly fought presidential election, as well as pushing for resumption of a cross-strait dialogue.
Chen also offered congratulations on the inauguration of US President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for a second term, stating that he believed the US, under Bush's leadership, would bring peace to the world and the Taiwan Strait.
Meanwhile, Chen was quoted as saying in an interview published in the Japanese Mainichi Shimbun daily yesterday that China's proposed anti-secession law would likely increase pressure on his government to introduce a retaliatory law.
Chen also said adoption of such a law would increase calls for a referendum to make clear Taiwan's opposition to it.
"[China] is trying to produce a legal basis for the use of military force against Taiwan," Chen was quoted as saying in the interview, which the Mainichi Shimbun said was conducted in Taiwan on Wednesday.
"It will only hurt the feelings of the residents of Taiwan," Chen said of the proposed law.
"To oppose this, there are people who are calling for the enactment of an anti-annexation law or to show opposition via a referendum," he said.
Chen also said his plans to adopt a new constitution for Taiwan were unrelated to promoting independence.
"There seem to be people who are worried but there is no need for that," Chen said.
"Discussions within Taiwan about sovereignty, territory, unification and independence are not ripe and there is no consensus. It is unrelated to promoting Taiwan's independence," he said.